Tesla to Bring Full Self-Driving Capacity to Japan

Elon Musk has indicated that Tesla has plans to bring the Full Self-Driving (FSD) suite to Japan “soon” in response to a query from the Twitter account known as “model3teslaJAPAN”. Tesla had previously delayed the international release of its autonomous driving features so that it can fine-tune the features for each market.

International markets are especially tricky due to varying “rules of the road” that each nation can have. Failing to account for variables like many countries’ use of “kilometers per hour” instead of “miles per hour” for speed limits can cause Tesla models with self-driving features to be responsible for traffic violations and possible accidents if these varying rules are not accounted for. Although tests of self-driving software for international markets look promising, Tesla often issues disclaimers that owners of its models should stay alert in case of conditions and local ordinances that its self-driving vehicles may not yet be programmed to handle.

Recent updates to Tesla’s self-driving features for the international market includes a Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control feature that can appropriately follow traffic light signals. Statements from Tesla indicate that this feature, along with other upcoming features, may be fine-tuned based on data that its cars send to the Neural Network.

The Neural Network is an Artificial Intelligence application meant to make Tesla vehicles with autonomous driving features more capable of handling conditions on the road. It gets much of its data from onboard cameras that also function as part of Tesla vehicles’ security system. This is a different approach from other automobile manufacturers that rely on pre-mapped data. Tesla says that its reliance on cameras is superior because it improves the Neural Network’s access to real-time data such as the possible presence of undesirable conditions like ice on the road or traffic jams.

The tech-friendly Japan was Tesla’s first foray into the Asian market when it announced plans to ship its first model, the Roadster, to the country in 2010. At the time, it said in this press release:

“Responding to growing demand, Tesla Motors, the Silicon Valley-based automaker of the world’s fastest highway-capable electric vehicle today shipped a dozen Japan Signature Series Roadsters from Port Hueneme, California. The well-appointed right-hand drive Roadsters will arrive in Yokohama in May for delivery to select customers throughout Japan.”

Although Tesla has grown faster in other Asian markets like China since then, the Model 3 is currently the fifth most popular electric vehicle in Japan, behind only models produced by Japanese automakers like Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi. Combining electric vehicle technology with improved and safer self-driving capability is likely to make Tesla even more popular in Japan.

Tesla has not yet set a specific date for bringing its Full Self-Driving capabilities to Japan. Considering Musk’s promise of “soon,” it may simply be doing some fine-tuning of the software to account for the unique needs of the Japanese market.