Tesla is raising the price of its controversial driver-assist feature it calls “full self-driving” to $15,000.
Tesla (TSLA) buyers can purchase it for $12,000 until Sept. 5. The $12,000 price dates to January. Following the latest price increase, the software will cost five times as much as when it was first introduced as a $3,000 add-on, even as it has developed slower than the automaker projected and faced criticism and government scrutiny.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said for years that the price of “full self-driving” would increase periodically as it develops and moves closer to regulatory approval. He tweeted in May 2020 that when “full self-driving” had that approval the feature would “probably” be worth more than “$100,000.” But Tesla does not appear close to regulatory approval for “full self-driving.” The California DMV said this month that the name “full self-driving” is “a deceptive practice” and grounds for suspending or revoking Tesla’s license to sell vehicles in the state.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also investigating the more rudimentary predecessor of “full self-driving,” Autopilot. That technology combines lane-keeping assist with adaptive cruise control to keep a car in a lane on a highway, as opposed to the promise of “full self-driving,” which Tesla says aims to one day be able to operate a vehicle without human supervision on a city street. A recall of Autopilot software from vehicles featuring it is possible.
“Full self-driving” is a critical part of Tesla’s vision of offering a robotaxi that the company claims can drive a million miles and make “probably something on the order of $30,000 per year,” Musk said in 2019. Tesla first said in 2016 that it felt its vehicles had the hardware for “full self-driving,” and only the software needed to be developed.
Tesla, like all companies developing autonomous driving features, has repeatedly missed self-imposed deadlines and been unable to match the hype that spurred billions of dollars of investment. Musk has said every year from 2015 to 2022 that self-driving Teslas were probably a year or two away.
Musk said Sunday that his main goals for this year include a wide release of “full self-driving.”
“Full self-driving,” as it currently stands, navigates local roads with steering, braking and acceleration, but requires a human driver prepared to take control at any moment, as the system makes judgment errors.
A select group of Tesla owners have had early access to an unfinished version of “full self-driving” since October 2020. These testers have described being both impressed and concerned with the system’s performance. Some of their loved ones have not enjoyed the technology, which is rough around the edges. CNN Business’ own experience with the system in November 2021 on New York City streets found that the system would occasionally steer the vehicle into oncoming traffic. But many testers describe seeing gradual improvements.
Musk said in April that more than 100,000 people are in the “beta” program, a reference to software that hasn’t been finalized.
The price increase coincides with a new software version of “full self-driving,” which the automaker says has many improvements including left turns and smoothness.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.