Tesla to give FSD demo drives for all new deliveries, says Musk [Update]

Elon Musk has directed employees to give all customers taking delivery of a new Tesla vehicle in North America a supervised drive with the latest version of Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta.

The directive sounds positive when you first hear it and will undoubtedly increase the number of owners either purchasing or subscribing to FSD, but there are a number questions and concerns about how the program will actually work and how it will affect the delivery process.

In an email to all employees early this morning, Musk says that it is now “mandatory” for the latest version of FSD Beta, which he references as v12.3.1, to be installed and activated in order to give owners a first-hand demonstration of the capabilities of FSD Beta before handing over the car to the customer. Musk said this will expose FSD to more people as “almost no one actually realizes how well (supervised) FSD actually works.”

Realizing the impact of such a program on Tesla’s front-line staff, Musk ended the email acknowledging it “will slow down the delivery process, but it is nonetheless a hard requirement,” signaling he is unlikely to back down from his requirements for the program.

UPDATE 2:06pm PT: In a second email, Musk says this is also a requirement when cars are returned from service.

Therein lies the first, and possibly biggest, concern with the program. With the rapid expansion of Tesla’s sales over the last few years, the delivery process has been slimmed down to minimize the amount of time required by staff to actually hand over a car to a new owner. In fact, the company even offers touchless deliveries, where customers can sign all the paperwork beforehand and simply arrive and drive off in their new car in a matter of minutes.

Now before a customer can drive away a staff member will have to go on a drive to demonstrate FSD Beta, all of which will eat up valuable time that could be spent with other customers getting them familiar with their new vehicle.

There are also logistical concerns when it comes to the software and hardware. On the software side, Tesla currently delivers cars with a special factory version, the numbering of which does not follow the versions on customer cars already in the fleet. This factory version is often on the car for several weeks, allowing Tesla time to test any new changes or components to their vehicles to ensure everything is working as it should.

With this new program, Tesla will have to update the car’s software off the factory version prior to delivery, potentially derailing this part of their software validation process.

Additionally, FSD is almost always several updates behind the non-FSD software version. The current customer-released version of FSD Beta, which is 12.3, not 12.3.1 as Musk references in his email, is still on the 2023 branch, meaning it is incompatible with the factory software versions which are on the 2024 branch. This is expected to change however with the release of 12.3.1 that is currently being tested by employees, but it is still something that will need to change on Tesla’s end in order for this program to work.

Then there are the hardware concerns. The cameras on new Tesla vehicles require about 100km (60 miles) of driving in order to calibrate. This is required before FSD or Autopilot can be engaged. With this requirement, Tesla will have to work their software magic to reduce or eliminate this calibration requirement entirely.

One other concern is that the new Model 3 and Cybertruck do not have even basic Autopilot installed, let alone FSD Beta, meaning it is impossible for these vehicles to download and install the required software. Tesla staff could get around this by having a dedicated vehicle or two (or more) with FSD Beta installed, but that would likely slow down the delivery process even further.

Many of these concerns can be fixed, but it will take Tesla some time to iron out the kinks and get the program running as smoothly as it can. Once it does it will undoubtedly increase the take-rate for FSD Capability, which currently costs $16,000 in Canada or $12,000 in the US. There is also a monthly subscription option in the US, which is expected to launch in Canada in the next few weeks.

Here is the full email from Musk.

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