Rather than using trained safety drivers to test experimental advancements in its software, Tesla has opted to use “beta testers,” aka YouTubers, to determine, live on America’s streets, which of its self-driving technologies are safe—and which are not. A report out from Vice says these “beta testers” have access to a pre-release version of Tesla’s self-driving—that isn’t actually self-driving—software, which typically costs Tesla owners $200/month. This tester community has been uploading videos to YouTube of them gallivanting around in their Teslas to test the limits of what the Full Self-Driving Beta can do, meaning the software’s progress and trajectory over time is reliant on reviews by the YouTubers. They test to see if FSD Beta’s artificial-intelligence software can handle unexpected twists and obstacles to avoid deadly consequences, such as striking pedestrians, most of whom are non-consenting subjects in an experiment they don’t know they’re in. In one post cited by Vice, the steering wheel of a test car suddenly spins right and takes the moving car into the path of people in a crosswalk.
Tesla has required its Beta testers to sign an nondisclosure agreement to be a part of the Early Access Program, preventing them from speaking on the record about their experiences. Tesla insists in the documents that this is because “there are a lot of people that want Tesla to fail,” and warns them to not “let them mischaracterize your feedback and media posts.” Federal and state regulators are nowhere to be seen—including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which allegedly has the jurisdiction to keep an eye on FSD.