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Tesla's "Full Self-Driving" feature can be released early

Tesla may give certain customers early access to a "features complete" version of the company's "full self-driving" (FSD) features by the end of 2019, Elon Musk said in a conversation with investors Wednesday. Musk said this was not "safe" – but that he thinks Tesla is on track for the release.

It's a kind of limited beta test, so there won't be a bunch of Tesla vehicles running around autonomously by the end of the year. Musk later clarified during the conversation that with the "function completed", he believes the car will be able to drive from someone's home to their work without any intervention. Drivers will still be ready to take control if the car runs into a problem. Some experts have addressed the issue of how Musk has been talking about these features lately, claiming he makes mud off the water by overlooking a Tesla car.

Musk said the Tesla Autopilot can handle high-speed driving, while the recently rolled out Smart Summon parking feature can handle low speeds. (How well Smart Summon works is up for debate, given the number of Tesla owners reporting system failures.) The company has not yet allowed its customers to control the vehicle at medium speed, where they are more likely to encounter traffic signals, intersections and other complexities. FSD is meant to address this gap in Tesla's current autonomous capabilities.

There will be limits, Musk warned. "It doesn't mean like every scenario anywhere on earth, including every corner," he said. This is contrary to previous statements from Musk. Earlier this year, Musk said Tesla's vehicles will be able to achieve level 5 autonomy "without geofence", meaning they can drive anywhere, under any conditions.

Tesla has said that it will activate the FSD function by mid-2020, so today's comments indicate that the company feels secretive about its capabilities. Tesla has an early access program for selected drivers that it uses as a testing platform to help iron out software bugs.

Musk has previously estimated that by mid-2020, Tesla's autonomous system will have improved to the point where drivers do not need to pay attention to the road. The company also plans to roll out autonomous taxis in some parts of the United States. The service will allow Tesla owners to add their cars to a Tesla network, which he said would be similar to Uber or Airbnb.

In the conversation, Musk said even as the company starts activating a functional version of the FSD function for early access members, it will not mean that the car will be fully full self-driving. Drivers must be engaged at the earliest by the end of 2020, Musk said.

Tesla brought back the FSD package earlier this year after scrapping the alternative in late 2018 amid criticism of the company that is selling the autonomy to the vehicles. Earlier this year, Musk showed off the custom piece that Tesla will use to tackle this task, though he is known for missing his own deadlines.

Customers who purchase a Tesla have the option to purchase the company's FSD option for $ 6,000, or $ 8,000 after delivery. (The company raised prices by $ 1,000 in August; Musk has said prices will continue to increase by a few months.)

Musk has long claimed that Tesla's self-driving benefit comes from having a large car park – around 425,000 – already on the road. These cars record situations and provide training data to improve the neural networks needed for self-driving cars. The company's approach to autonomous vehicles is primarily focused on computer vision, or using cameras – just like humans – to recognize and understand the world.

"We want more than a million robot axes on the road," Musk said earlier this year. "A year from now, we will have over a million cars with full self-drive, software … everything."

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