Tesla is extending its “full self-driving” (FSD) beta software “to anyone in North America who requests it from the car screen,” according to CEO Elon Musk who tweeted out the news late Wednesday evening. The rollout of FSD across the continent comes as Tesla is potentially facing a criminal investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice over false claims relating to the company’s advanced driver assistance system Autopilot.

Autopilot comes standard on Tesla vehicles and performs automated driving functions such as steering, accelerating and automatic braking. FSD, which costs North American drivers $15,000, is an extension of Autopilot that includes features like assisted steering on highways and city streets, smart vehicle summoning, automatic parking and recognizing and reacting to traffic lights and stop signs.

Autopilot, and by extension FSD, have come under regulator scrutiny in recent years following a series of Tesla crashes, many of which were fatal. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened special investigations into 36 Tesla crashes involving Autopilot since 2016, five of which happened this year. Tesla has also come under fire from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles and drivers who claim the company falsely advertised the self-driving capabilities of Autopilot and FSD.

Some Tesla owners and enthusiasts predicted the company might allow FSD into all cars after Tesla appears to have dropped the requirement for 100 Autopilot miles and a safety score of at least 80 to receive the FSD update. This is a concerning lack of scrutiny considering fears that drivers using ADAS are less likely to watch the road and be alert in case the system malfunctions. Tesla’s website does encourage drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

Despite concerns, any driver who has already paid the steep price for Tesla’s FSD will be able to access the software in North America. Tesla had previously extended FSD access to 160,000 owners in the U.S. and Canada in September, and today’s widespread rollout makes good on previous promises from Musk to get FSD in every Tesla by the end of 2022.

Musk has claimed that Tesla could achieve full-self driving by the end of the year, but during the company’s third quarter earnings admitted that FSD wouldn’t gain regulatory approval to be driven without someone behind the wheel in 2022. The move to expand the number of users and possibly give Tesla’s supercomputer Dojo more data to work with might be one of the reasons Tesla has chosen now to expand.

It might also be a move to ease investor worries and accrue some more revenue. Tesla’s stock is at a two-year low and its market cap slashed from $1.2 trillion last November to $574 billion today following Musk’s buyout of Twitter and the ensuing dramas of the company overhaul.

The FSD scaling also follows news from Tesla engineers Romi Phadte and Gabe Gheorghian who spoke at BazelCon this week and shared that Tesla has increased the number of FSD simulations per week from around 250,000 in 2020 to 2 million today.

Rebecca Bellan

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