Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ feature may get early-access release by the end of 2019

Tesla’s promised full-self driving capability for its cars may come early but only in a beta testing program. The company may give select Tesla owners early access to a “feature complete” version of the company’s “full self-driving” (FSD) capabilities by the end of 2019, The auto company’s CEO Elon Musk said in a call with investors Wednesday. Musk pointed out that it wasn’t “for sure” — but that he thinks Tesla is on track for the release.

Musk later clarified on the call that by “feature complete,” he means the car will be able to drive from someone’s home to their work without intervention. Drivers will still need to be ready to take control if the car runs into a problem.

Musk said Tesla Autopilot can handle high-speed driving, while its recently rolled out Smart Summon parking feature can handle low speeds. The company has yet to allow its customers hands-off control of the vehicle at medium speeds, where they are more likely to encounter traffic signals, intersections, and other complexities. FSD is meant to address that gap in Tesla’s current autonomous capabilities.

There will be limits, Musk cautioned. “It doesn’t mean like every scenario everywhere on Earth, including every corner case,” he said. That contradicts previous statements by Musk. Earlier this year, Musk said Tesla’s vehicles will be able to achieve Level 5 autonomy “without a geofence,” which means they can drive anywhere, under any conditions.

Tesla has said it will activate its FSD feature by mid-2020, so today’s comments indicate the company is feeling bullish about its capabilities. Tesla has an early access program for select drivers that it uses as a testing platform to help iron out software bugs.

Some experts have taken issue with the way Musk talks about these features in the past, arguing he is muddying the waters by overselling a Tesla car’s capabilities.