The Washington Post article on the Tesla FSD beta is superb, the answers not so much



Over the past decade of electric vehicle industry coverage, it’s sadly not hyperbole that I almost never see electric vehicle (EV) history in major mainstream media that isn’t on the market. plagued by problems. All kinds of errors and biases are plentiful in such pieces. Frankly, CleanTechnica has been so successful in large part because of the poor coverage of clean technology in these outlets. So when I saw the Washington post (WaPo) room “Tesla test drivers believe their mission is to make driving safer for everyone. Skeptics say they are a security hazard.”On Google News tonight, I can’t say I was expecting much. I was positively surprised.

What WaPo Did well

As someone who has Tesla Full Self Driving (FSD) Beta access and who has corrected the record on Tesla’s misinformed or misleading media coverage since 2012, I was surprised that I did not find almost nothing to correct or change in the story. . There is one line that jumped out at me that needed improvement *, but the overall explanation of the following was well informed:

  • How Tesla’s FSD Beta Works.
  • The basic evolution of the Tesla autopilot.
  • The goal of Tesla FSD – the finished product. (However, this could have been explained, and I will come back to it.)
  • Concerns and hopes for Tesla FSD.

The authors of the article have driven Tesla vehicles a lot themselves or are very good listeners and reporters, IMHO.

In addition, WaPo interviewed several FSD Beta users, not just one or two, and it seems like the goal was to make sure you really understand the system and the people who use it. The outlet also got an interview with a former autopilot engineer who uses FSD Beta – great!

What WaPo Could have done better

the WaPo writers and editors have been faced with a rather gargantuan task – trying to summarize a bunch of issues, some that involve huge nuances and others that involve in-depth technological debates, to a readership that is likely to have few exposure to the subject. I don’t envy the task. Ultimately, people reading the story are going to read it with different colored glasses based on preconceived notions of Elon Musk and Tesla, and not everything will be fully understood in the context of what didn’t. been written. And you can’t expect WaPo to write a Tesla encyclopedia for this story. Unfortunately, looking at the comments below the article, I think an important context was missing.

For one thing, and I’m not saying I would have thought to include this in the article without seeing the comments, perhaps it would have been helpful to highlight Tesla’s historical obsession with safety. Tesla could have put more emphasis on producing the safest cars in history and Elon Musk’s goal of dramatically reducing the nearly unfathomable number of deaths that occur each year from drowsiness, driving. reckless driving, drunk driving, texting while driving and just humans. Error. (This has been mentioned, along with a great stat to get the point across, but the mention was probably too short and narrow to impart important context to readers.) Shameless plug because I think it’s really useful for the context:

One area that was also missing was an explanation of why this stage in the development of FSD is considered so important, and that the fundamental purpose of this approach is to resolve issues or borderline cases of general autonomous driving ability. as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to minimize net total of road fatalities over time. The goal isn’t to go fast and smash things, the goal isn’t to deploy robotaxis in a few markets at a time, and the goal certainly isn’t to get rich and famous. (I went, I did this.) The goal – I repeat – is clearly to develop FSD in the most ideal way possible to reduce road fatalities as much as possible over time.

Comparing and contrasting Tesla’s self-driving development techniques versus Waymo versus Cruise versus Zoox versus Intel would certainly be beyond the scope of the article, but a little more could have been put forward for explain that the approach taken by Tesla FSD Beta is targeted. to solve problems that others weren’t able to, and create a super safe autonomous driving solution that can be used “anywhere” (let’s not get into the nuance of the US vs. ‘India, but you get the point… I hope).

Whether Tesla’s FSD approach is good or bad is up for debate

Without a doubt, one of the most heated and important debates in the field of technology is who has the best approach to the development of autonomous vehicles and who will “win” the race for the mass robotaxe. Many Tesla fans believe Tesla has the right approach and, as the article points out, are happy to help push the technology forward. Plus, if Tesla cracks the code, no one is really behind him on that avenue, so that would effectively end up with a pretty ridiculous monopoly on a technology that is changing the world and boosting a world record for the number of tweets saying “Je told you. ” Those who think Tesla has the wrong approach, of course, see this stage of development as stupid, reckless and potentially illegal.

I would just like to point out that no one really knows which side is right. A lot of people are convinced that they know and would like to convince you that they know, but they don’t. We are too far from “problem solved” or “ready for massive robotaxi use” for anyone to be sure the way is clear. At the same time, anyone who is convinced that it is impossible for Tesla’s approach to work to remember the phrase “never say never” and also look into the trail of the humble pies eaten by the pundits of the industry who claimed that Elon Musk’s companies could never achieve anything. Or just watch Tesla’s story to achieve the impossible.

That said, concerning the latter, the WaPo The article highlights something that many Tesla fans and shareholders (myself included) would probably prefer to ignore. While Tesla is used to meeting “impossible” production, vehicle specification, vehicle development and financial goals (which the WaPo article did not mention), the goals of FSD were far removed. The article writes: “In 2019, Musk boldly promised that the company’s cars would have the ability to drive themselves, turning Tesla into a fleet of one million ‘robotaxis’ by 2020. “There is also a self-contained LA-NYC trip that never materialized. For critics, these missed targets may be associated with some of Elon’s COVID-19 tweets, what follows being arguably the most infamous and shocking (including around the time it was made):

Note that this was tweeted in March 2020.

In short: It’s not yet clear whether Tesla FSD will deliver the goods (consumer robotaxis) or not, but if Tesla delivers, it will be one of the most transformational achievements in tech history (and will have much wider ramifications).

The answers, although …

After being very pleased with the article’s clarity, attention to detail, lack of misinformation, and its effectiveness in communicating from different angles of the story, I have to say I was disappointed when I was entered in the comments. I’m just going to criticize a few to show what I’m talking about.

“The car performs more than 90% of the driving without fault”.

It’s that other ten percent that will kill you (or someone else).

Of course, this user used some exaggeration here, but there have been a lot of comments like this, and I think one would assume that if the technology isn’t perfect it will kill a lot of people. In reality, most of the problems are minor. When it comes to the bigger problem challenge, ideally, drivers should carefully resolve any issues that arise. That said, the debate over whether it is safe enough to put in the hands of customers is honestly a fair debate, as there are indeed cases that could lead to accidents if the driver is a little too slow. to react (such as hard braking when a car is quite close behind you). Personally, I don’t use the FSD Beta much when other cars are very close or in certain situations due to its “issues” and my knowledge of good defensive driving techniques and the limits of human reaction.

Self-driving cars are a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

There were different versions of it, and they were all disappointing to see. The ideal is very clearly to solve the problem of the many deaths and injuries caused by car crashes. Cars are not going to go away, but making them safer could save many lives. Further, the article clearly states the problem: “For willing Tesla guinea pigs, the promise of fully autonomous driving, however risky and unproven, offers an immediate antidote to the monotony of traffic and a glimmer of light. hope for safer roads, where 20,000 Americans died in the first half of 2021 alone, an increase of 18 percent. “

There were also less glaring issues with some of the findings. By far the most common seemed to be that a lot of people thought Tesla FSD Beta users didn’t get anything from having FSD Beta (again, I’m one of those people). Only a few thousand people probably have the beta of FSD at the moment. Since this is such a critical technology (whether it works or fails), having a personal idea of ​​its quality and development could be helpful for investment decisions, and I guess most of these people are Tesla. [NASDAQ:TSLA] shareholders (disclosure: I am a shareholder of TSLA). In addition, many people greatly appreciate being on the cutting edge of technology.

Technical writers I would hire

To end where I started, the refreshing thing about the WaPo The article from my perspective was that this was an accurate, fair and seemingly unbiased representation of where we are at with Tesla FSD. We could use a lot more. I would definitely hire the article writers if I could offer them better pay and benefits than the Washington post.

*One line I would have written differently is this: “Safety experts and autonomous driving companies say the decision to do this is reckless and short-sighted …” A better wording would be: “Some safety experts and Competitive autonomous driving companies using different approaches say the decision to do so is reckless and short-sighted…. “

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