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Elon Musk teases free Tesla FSD trial in North America

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has laid out a rough plan for expanding access to Full Self-Driving (FSD), the company's advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), throughout North America and the rest of the world.

"Once FSD is super smooth (not just safe), we will roll out a free month trial for all cars in North America," Musk tweeted Monday. "Then extend to rest of world after we ensure it works well on local roads and regulators approve it in that country."

Despite what its name suggests, FSD does not actually allow a car to drive itself fully. The newest version of the beta software automates some driving tasks on both highways and city streets, but it still requires the driver to stay alert and take over control of the vehicle at any time.

Musk did not provide a specific timeline for extending access to FSD beyond North America, where the $15,000 add-on has been available to "anyone who requests it" since November. Nor did the executive elaborate on why Tesla would roll out a free one-month trial for all Tesla vehicles on the continent, but the reason is likely twofold.

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FSD, which is powered by deep neural networks, is technically still in the beta stage. That means it requires reams of data to train and improve. By rolling FSD out to every Tesla in North America, even if it's just for one month, the automaker can collect another hefty chunk of driving data while simultaneously drumming up hype for the software and its capabilities -- the Tesla equivalent of giving out a free taste of ice cream to get you to buy a scoop.

"We test as much as possible in simulation and with [quality assurance] drivers, but reality is vastly more complex," Musk tweeted over the weekend, alongside news that the latest version of FSD would ship to Tesla employees this week.

The executive also teased capabilities for the next version of FSD, which Musk said would have "end-to-end AI."

Outside of North America, Tesla has been limited in its ability to give drivers access to FSD due to stricter regulations. Drivers only have access to Autopilot, Tesla's standard ADAS, which includes features like automatic steering within a lane, automatic braking and automatic navigation to highway on- and off-ramps, but it's a dialed-back version. FSD is still not yet allowed on public roads.

However, there have been some moves over the last month by the European Commission to speed up regulation on ADAS. The Commission aims to have new regulation submitted in full by September 2024, with the option available both for an earlier deadline and for pre-deployment testing of systems.

Meanwhile in Asian markets like China, where Tesla Autopilot is available to drivers, there have been recent reports that the automaker will soon begin large-scale FSD testing.

The potential widespread rollout comes as FSD and Autopilot have gotten the automaker into hot water in recent years. The systems have been the subject of numerous lawsuits and federal investigations, including a criminal investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice. The family of an Apple engineer who died in a car crash while Autopilot was allegedly activated is currently underway, and Musk will likely have to take the stand to defend comments he made about the capabilities of the system.