Tesla Beta Firmware 7.1 Adds Autopilot Restrictions

Autopilot restriction

Tesla has ignited a firestorm of criticism from owners after a recent leak submitted to us by a tipster of beta Firmware 7.1 shows an updated Autopilot system with restrictions. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously discussed rolling out a revised Autopilot that would prevent people from doing “crazy things” in response to several videos showing people performing idiotic stunts while using Autosteer, and that’s exactly what Tesla seems to have done.

The new Autopilot update apparently restricts its capabilities to speeds below the posted speed limit, while potentially disabling Autosteer under the same conditions. It is unclear if the software with the restrictions has been downloaded to all Autopilot enabled cars but reports from within the Tesla community indicate that the release has gone out to select beta testers.

Owners across the forums are not so much focused on whether the restrictions are a good idea, but rather the principle that Tesla has subtracted features after they have already been released. Some Tesla owners have even gone as far as saying they will refuse to install updates until they know if it will limit features that currently exist. TMC forum member Cyberax puts it succinctly:

“If there’s an update that removes a functionality that is useful for ME then I’m not going to install it. Moreover, I’ll sue Tesla if they update my car without asking me. This screenshot with 45 mph restriction is now a line in the sand for me.”

Sillydriver agrees. “My policy will be to wait a few days after a new build is offered to see whether people report that it introduces problems. If it does, I might wait for the next build, which will hopefully fix the problems, or would add more good features that would outweigh the problems.”

The new Autopilot and Autosteer restrictions seem only applicable to highway driving while Tesla’s active cruise control (TACC) appear to be unaffected by the latest update.


Autopilot restriction

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Author: Steve Hanley

I write about technology, the environment and anything on wheels from my home in Rhode Island. My Miata and I team up for occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

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  • vdiv

    “Refusing” the update may not work too well for the long term, I tried it by “refusing” ver. 7.0 to keep the center power gauge from ver. 6, however the car keeps bugging you on a daily basis that a new update is available.

    Feel bad for the people that paid for the autopilot feature prior to and especially post delivery.

    • Tristan Harvey

      It makes no sense to limit speed below the speed limit, that won’t prevent idiots from doing stupid thing? I tought the car was able to detect the presence of a driver in the driver seat…should be able to disable the auto pilot when your butt in not on the seat no?

  • At least the clock and time are back on the dash :p Seriously though, my guess is an initial over-reaction on the conservative side followed by a general relaxation after there’s more long term success on the roads its really built for — the highways. I dont have AP HW, but i’d be very happy if I had TACC and AP for highway driving alone.

  • CJ

    I think it comes down to the constant attempt to “legislate” common sense. Elon spoke about the dangers of high levels of Artificial Intelligence and yet he seems to be imparting that very thing in this case because idiots out there were using the brilliant AP & TACC irresponsibly. The human condition will always be there. Since the invention of the automobile, it has been used for bad and erroneous ways overtime. Should we ban the automobile entirely? of course that would be senseless and an overreaction. At some point, we have to accept that people have to be held responsible for their stupidity and recklessness. Cannot always blame the computer or the product manufacturer.

    The car is supposed to get better overtime, this is a step back in the wrong direction I would say. I think Tesla should really rethink this aspect of their next release.

    • UmeSverker

      Do you think that you are above the law ?
      Are you willing to risk other people’s lives ?

      • Haggy

        No, which is why I’d want to do the safest thing, which is moving with traffic. Tesla can’t stop anybody from driving five miles per hour over the speed limit, and cutting off auto steer if they do so isn’t making things safer. Slowing them down when it will result in cars tailgating and cutting them off will make things less safe.

        It has nothing to do with being above the law. The law guarantees me equal protection and if I’m driving at a speed at which other drivers aren’t getting pulled over, then I shouldn’t get pulled over either. On the other hand, slowing me down might get me pulled over. If I end up obstructing traffic because of it, and I’m in the left lane, then I could get a ticket.

      • UmeSverker

        I hope you know that if the speed limit is 55 mph you will not get pulled over if you drive 55?
        Tesla lets you brake the law but then you have to drive manually.
        Most people drive at the speed limit, some don’t and I understand that you are one of them. Your are willing to risk yours and other peoples lives. No respect for other people everything is about you. You are the God when you are driving your car and in everyday life ?

      • Haggy

        That’s quite wrong. There’s a law against speeding. There’s another law that says slower traffic keep right. You don’t get to pick which laws you get to follow. There’s also a law against obstructing traffic.

        I hope you know that you CAN get pulled over for going 55 mph in a 55 zone and it will be much more likely to happen in many places than if you go 60 in a 55 zone. If you are failing to keep to the right, you can’t use an excuse that other people in the right lane were speeding. “I’m sorry officer, but other people were breaking the law so I decided it was fine for me to break a different one.” Life doesn’t work that way.

        If most people drove the speed limit, than driving the speed limit would be moving with traffic. But you chewed me out for recommending that. So either you think you are wrong, or you think you are wrong. Those are the only options.

        The difference between somebody going a few miles per hour over the speed limit and somebody intentionally obstructing traffic by driving too slowly in the left lane is that one person is doing it to be an obnoxious prick. There’s no law against being an ass where I live, but if you insist on acting like one, you will get pulled over if you are breaking a law, especially if it’s to bother people as you are suggesting.

        Where I live, approximately 100% of the traffic will be going above the speed limit, and a vehicle that goes much slower than traffic is creating a hazard.

      • UmeSverker

        So you are also one of those guys that always drives in the left lane no matter what.
        So every one in your state speeds ? Wow !
        Somebody is not doing there job over there !

      • Haggy

        Do you have a problem understanding English, or is it just a reading problem in general? I already realize that you have a problem with English, and think people can “brake the law” but your problem is more general than that. I said nothing about myself driving in the left lane. I said nothing about myself speeding. You are the one who is trying to justify breaking the law by insisting that you can drive 55 in a 55 zone and can’t get a ticket for it. That’s blatantly wrong. I never accused you of doing that. But if that’s the game you like to play, I can also ask stupid questions. So you like to drive too slowly in the left lane? You like to play God? You like to eat limbs off of live people? See how easy it is to ask questions when you ignore what the other person said?

      • Mr B

        Now… Most people drive at the speed limit? In what world?

        In reality, most people are speeding, if not always, at the very least sometimes. But i don’t see anything wrong with Tesla limiting the auto-pilot top speed to fit the legal limit. Just as i don’t see a problem with Tesla trying to discourage people using the auto-pilot as if the car was an autonomous vehicle.
        The reason is simple. There will be accidents. You can claim that who ever was driving the “other” vehicle caused it, but it doesn’t really matter, if you weren’t monitoring the auto-pilot, you will be liable. It’s always the driver who has to have the last say. You could have avoided the accident, and if you didn’t, you, not the other driver, was partaking in reckless driving.

      • Kirk Hilles

        I AM THE LAW!
        – Dredd

  • UmeSverker

    I totally agree, some people think that they are above the law. Everything is just about them they have no concerns about risking other people’s lives.
    Thank you Tesla for making this world safer for everyone.

  • BocaJim

    There are two points here…

    AutoSteer/AutoPilot is currently a BETA software feature, so adding/subtracting functionality is natural. There’s nothing you can do to prevent Tesla from subtracting functionality from a beta feature (besides refusing to upgrade). You have no legal recourse to sue a company for changing the behavior of non-production features.

    Another is that the story above appears misleading, other sources report that above 45MPH on roads with no center divider, autosteer will be disabled, its anecdotal that the speed limit on the road is 45MPH.

    • Haggy

      Whether or not it’s called beta isn’t the issue. Whether or not Tesla promoted the feature before they sold the car is the issue. It is a production feature if Tesla put it in production. Despite their claim that it’s beta, it clearly isn’t. It got put on cars whether people asked for it or not, it got put on without anybody agreeing to test or to provide feedback, there’s no NDA or beta program coordinator involved, and aside from calling it beta, there’s nothing beta about it. Beta and general release are two different concepts. Software can’t be both. This article is about true beta software that went out to beta testers.

      • Kirk Hilles

        Yeah, I love the whole “Beta” thing. Google loves to have millions (if not billions) of people using a “Beta” product. That’s not “Beta” if its used on a massive scale. You can’t just slap “Beta” on the product and say “oh, well, sorry, the reason it doesn’t work is because its still in Beta”.

      • Mr B

        Of course you can. It’s beta since it’s a product in development, one that hasn’t had all, or even most it’s bugs worked out, features are still being tested. Who, and how many “who’s” that use it, has no effect on somethings beta status. But it doesn’t really matter. As long as the law says the driver is responsible, it can be beta or not, it’s still the drivers fault if anything happens.

  • Garry Robson

    I don’t really understand the fuss over Autopilot. It doesn’t avoid potholes or debris on the motorways and it positioned me uncomfortably close to an articulated truck a week ago – about 12 inches from my nearside wing mirror – despite being clear on my driver’s side. The one time it could come in handy would be in very poor visibility, pouring rain, etc., but it usually doesn’t function in those conditions.
    Much as I love this car, I shall probably never use Autopilot again – I just don’t see the point.

    • Kirk Hilles

      Well, keep in mind that we are in early development of this. Tesla is out front, but it’ll be several years before the technologies improve enough to be smart enough to really drive better than a human being. For now, take it as an impressive Beta product showing us the future.

      • Mr B

        Google published statistics saying that the accidents the autonomous Google-cars were in, were all caused by humans, either by breaking the law, or simply losing focus. Meaning that if every car was replaced with a self-driving one, they are already better at driving then we are.
        Doesn’t mean i want one. I drive my self, thank you very much.

  • Kirk Hilles

    I believe in Safe Driving in REALITY not in theoretical. To Drive Safely in reality, must be follow traffic. Here in the NASCAR South, 70 mph Speed Limits means 80-85 mph ongoing traffic. So, if you’re forced to go 70 mph, that means that EVERYBODY ELSE is now speeding in comparison to you. You now represent the most dangerous vehicle on the road.
    That is not a good idea to restrict this. I would absolutely force people to be sitting in the seats (I presume they detect that) as well as touching the steering wheel occasionally and other things like that, but restricting speed based on what you ASSUME to be the Speed Limit is a really bad idea.