Tesla's 'full self-driving' feature is coming in subscription form

HANGZHOU, CHINA - APRIL 21: A Tesla logo is seen on a vehicle at a Tesla store on April 21, 2020 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. (Photo by Long Wei/VCG via Getty Images)
HANGZHOU, CHINA - APRIL 21: A Tesla logo is seen on a vehicle at a Tesla store on April 21, 2020 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. (Photo by Long Wei/VCG via Getty Images)
·Senior Editor

During the Q1 2020 earnings call on Wednesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the company’s “Full Self-Driving” system will become available as a monthly subscription later this year.

Tesla has been installing the necessary hardware for its autonomous driver-assist features for a few years already, which has allowed Tesla to offer both its Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) systems as either a factory-installed or OTA-upgrade option. Basically, even if the car didn’t come with these features, you could pay Tesla to activate them. And pay customers did. In February of last year, it cost $3000 to install Autopilot and $5,000 for FSD. Autopilot enables the vehicle to perform lane keeping functions, like keeping up with traffic and avoiding pedestrians. FSD does all of that as well as autonomous parking and the summon feature that calls your car to you in a parking lot.

By that July, Tesla had tacked another $1,000 onto the FSD’s price tag — $7,000 all told if you install it after the fact. The company then promised another price hike in August which ended up being furloughed until version 10 of the vehicle software package, which included an enhanced summon capability, was available in September.

But for people that are buying the Tesla second hand or didn’t spring for the FSD package to start with, dropping seven grand can seem a steep sum for such an investment, which is why Musk announced on Wednesday, “I think we will also be having it as a subscription service, but it will be towards the end of this year.”

“It was to make available FSD as an option. In our view, buying FSD is an investment in the future and we're confident that his investment that will pay off to the consumer,” Musk continued. “My guess is the FSD option is something people will not regret doing.”

A company rep then reiterated that rolling the upfront cost of the FSD system into the overall vehicle loan “will be the least expensive to pay on a monthly basis.” Musk also said that the planned robo-taxi service powered by self-driving Teslas — previously slated for launch in 2020 — has been pushed back, and may be available in “some” markets in 2021.

The earnings call was not without verbal fireworks, however, as a clearly frustrated Musk ranted about the COVID-19 quarantine and government-issued stay at home orders.

“Is it right to infringe upon people's rights,” asked Musk. “As what is happening right now, I think people are going to be very angry about this.”

“If somebody wants to stay in their house, that's great. They should be allowed to stay in the house and they should not be compelled to leave,” he continued. “But to say that they cannot leave their house, as they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist.”

“This is not democratic, not freedom, give people back their goddamn freedom,” Musk insisted, as a tense silence fell upon the conference call.