Elon Musk has tweeted that monthly subscriptions for Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) software could become available in early 2021. Earlier this year, Musk had floated subscriptions as an option for people who didn’t want to pay the $10,000 up-front price for the software.
Absolutely. We will release FSD subscription early next year.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 20, 2020
This could make Full Self-Driving more popular with people who are leasing Tesla vehicles rather than buying them outright. Musk did say that buying the software might be better in the long run for people who intend to keep their vehicles for a long time.
“I should say, it will still make sense to buy FSD as an option as in our view, buying FSD is an investment in the future,” Musk told investors in a quarterly earnings call earlier this year.
On the flip side, Musk has mentioned that the upfront price of FSD could go up to $100,000 — way more than most consumers can afford. This may make subscriptions the only option for Tesla buyers who want to thumb through the news on their tablets while their vehicle handles the driving.
FSD is currently still in its early beta phase. Recently added features include the ability to handle speed bumps and a brand-new augmented reality view that can provide important information to owners without them having to look down at their dashboard. It already has a proven capacity to handle most city driving, including traffic lights, turns, and roundabouts.
Tesla still recommends not getting complacent, as it is still possible for the FSD to encounter a condition that it isn’t yet equipped to handle. Some Tesla vehicles with FSD have been involved in wrecks, though the majority of them were not the fault of the software. On the bright side, as the below video shows, the FSD can already handle an encounter with a deer.
However, it may not yet be able to handle the unpredictability of human drivers. Human error is still a factor in the vast majority of vehicle wrecks and other vehicles don’t yet have a version of FSD. Musk expects that such wrecks will be much reduced once software like FSD becomes more fully developed and self-driving cars start to become the norm.
Once FSD is fully mature, though, it is expected to be able to handle most situations on the road, ranging from possible wrecks to poor weather and slick conditions on the road. Its AI already has access to billions of miles’ worth of driving data and its cameras have already doubled as security cameras that could help prevent theft — a possible concern, considering that security researchers have recently discovered a security hole related to the key fob. Tesla says it released a patch for the security flaw in a recent software update.
“We are confident that it is an investment that will pay off to the consumer — to the benefit of the consumer. In my opinion, buying FSD option is something people will not regret doing,” he told investors.
FSD is also critical for Musk’s plans for a Robotaxi service that will bank on the “ride sharing” market. Such a thing may be worth billions of dollars a year to Tesla and its vehicle owners, though one could imagine the surprise of owners whose vehicles pull out of the driveway for the first time to pick up someone who called for a ride. (Good case for checking settings on your Tesla’s software when you buy!) Once Tesla owners warm up to the idea, the money they earn from the Robotaxi program could become part of Musk’s referenced “payoff”.
If you are considering buying a Tesla in 2021, how much would you be willing to pay in subscription fees for Tesla’s FSD software? Considering that Tesla may hike the price of its software in the future, it makes sense to get in on it early, especially if you consider the subscription to be a “try before you buy” thing.