The promise of Level 5 autonomy (get in the car, tell it where to go, do whatever you want with your time as the AI gets you there) has been an integral part of Tesla’s marketing strategy for a long time, starting with the Autopilot in 2015 and continuing with the Full Self-Driving (FSD) suite more recently.
The EV maker has received plenty of complaints about the names it chose for its products that some part of the public, the press, and even government agencies found to be misleading, but it soldiered on with its plan. Now, though, it’s gone and done something that even its most loyal fans are calling questionable, if not downright deceitful. Mostly because it is.
A bit of backstory. Starting in late 2016, Tesla said all the cars it sold were equipped with the hardware needed to enable full self-driving. The buyers were given the choice of whether they wanted to pay for it at the time of purchase, or later on, as the software running it would become more capable. Of course, paying upfront meant you were securing access to FSD for a certain price, one that could (and would) go up later on.
Some people preferred the cash in their pocket to Elon Musk’s promises, and that’s not necessarily something to blame if you consider the CEO’s history of bombastic claims and failed promises. Take this one, for example: “I don’t think we have to worry about autonomous cars because it’s a sort of a narrow form of AI. It’s not something I think is very difficult. To do autonomous driving that is to a degree much safer than a person, is much easier than people think. […] I almost view it like a solved problem,” Musk said in 2015, during an NVIDIA conference. Also Musk, presumably the same person, earlier this month: “Generalized self-driving is a hard problem, as it requires solving a large part of real-world AI. Didn’t expect it to be so hard, but the difficulty is obvious in retrospect.”
However, now that Tesla is launching its subscription plan for the FSD Beta 9.0 – in other words, offering people the chance to pay some money to become the company’s beta testers – it turns out not everyone can have it at the same rates. Owners of cars with Hardware 2.0 and 2.5 computers (those built between the end of 2016 and the start of 2019) who want access were told would have to pay a premium ($1,500) to have their hardware upgrade. You know, the hardware they were told could handle FSD when they bought the car.
Needless to say, this caused an uproar on Tesla forums and Reddit, so after closer consideration, Tesla seemingly decided it could shave a third off that sum and drop it to an even $1,000. Can somebody explain how this is possible?
By dropping the price, the company basically admits two things, neither of which is exactly flattering: one, it admits it was wrong because otherwise, why would it back down? And second, it acknowledges the fact that the $1,500 was higher than necessary, which makes it look as though it was initially trying to milk more money from its customers. The same customers who were told they had all the hardware they would ever need when they bought their cars. That’s like… next level scumbaggery.