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We Tested Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and It Was Scary

We tested Tesla Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and it was a chilling experience.

FSD Beta allows Tesla vehicles to drive autonomously to a destination entered into the car’s navigation system, but the driver must remain alert and ready to take control at all times.

Since the responsibility lies with the driver and not with Tesla’s system, it is still considered a level two driver assistance system despite its name. Tesla essentially uses its customer fleet to test capabilities and collect data to improve toward its goal of making the system truly autonomous and taking responsibility for it.

I’ve had FSD Beta in my Model 3 for a few months now, and test it sporadically when I feel like there’s a potentially interesting scenario. I don’t usually use it in my daily driving because in my case it feels like work and adds a level of stress I don’t need.

Yesterday my girlfriend and I went hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. On the way back I thought it might be interesting to test Tesla’s FSD Beta (version 10.12) on the Blue Ridge Parkway as this is a scenario the FSD Beta should excel in as there are very few intersections, and the road lines are as clear as it gets.

Here you can watch the full unedited player:

The scenario puts FSD Beta in similar circumstances to Tesla’s Autopilot, but on low-speed roads, which is why I thought it would work just fine.

For the most part it worked well – the computer vision system is excellent at sensing its surroundings and the car stays beautifully centered in the lane.

At one point (9:50 a.m.) we encountered hikers who were walking very close to the road, who had no shoulders, and Tesla FSD Beta quickly detected them, slowed them down, and even planned to move further to the left to give space to them before they themselves go off course:

It was very good driving behavior that I was about to do myself, if FSD Beta hadn’t shown us what it was planning.

The most annoying part of FSD Beta, like Autopilot, is still the frequency of “ghost braking” events where the vehicle decelerates without a good reason to decelerate. As you can see this happens quite a few times on this drive, although I feel like the deceleration isn’t as severe as on autopilot – it could just be down to the different driving speeds on the freeways compared to this slower route.

I also noticed some inconsistencies in the rotation speed of Tesla FSD Beta. You can see it decelerate to corners it doesn’t feel like you need to decelerate, then take others just as sharply at the set top speed.

During the 13-minute, 8-mile test, we only had one driver intervention (12:56), but that was obviously significant. Tesla FSD Beta was clearly taking the sharp turn too fast, and it was about to throw us off the cliff onto the side of the road. I applied the brakes feeling the car go straight through the dual carriageways to the other side of the road. It was certainly scary for a second.

The weird thing is that FSD Beta knew that this road had some sharp turns that required slowing down, as it was going 10 mph below the set speed, but it didn’t anticipate this turn correctly.

From the predicted trajectory (blue line) you can see that FSD Beta has difficulty predicting the actual sharpness of the turn and seems to line up with the double lines:

As FSD started to take the corner, I felt it was going too fast and there was no way the car wouldn’t miss the corner without slamming the brakes before forcing the wheel to the right.

It’s a good reminder that the system is still in beta, and it’s extremely important to stay alert and ready to take control at all times. Stay safe there.

Note: This post is based on my own opinion of Tesla FSD Beta based on this test, which you can see above.

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