Tesla's new full-self-driving software may cause illegal driving

A Tesla Model X in a showroom
The software update also introduces 'chill' and 'average' driving modes. Photo credit: Getty Images

Tesla's new full self-driving (FSD) beta software has introduced an 'assertive' driving mode which could break laws.

The feature was originally released in October but was rolled back within two days due to issues including cars turning left at traffic lights when they weren't supposed to.

However the latest version of the software has reinstated the 'chill', 'average' and 'assertive' driving modes, which has left some questioning the legality of the aggressive option.

According to the software, in the 'assertive' mode the "Model X will have a smaller follow distance, perform more frequent speed lane changes, will not exit passing lanes and may perform rolling stops".

Even in the 'average' driving mode, rolling stops may still be performed.

Rolling stops are where the car doesn't come to a complete standstill even at stop signs, which is illegal in many US states including California and Texas.

It is also illegal in New Zealand - cars must come to a complete stop at stop signs.

David Zipper, an advisor and writer who works on the future of cities and technology, suggested flippantly that 'road rage mode' didn't fit on the screen, hence 'assertive' was used instead. 

"In all seriousness, NHTSA's job is to keep American road users safe - including those walking, biking, and using cars other than a Tesla," he continued.

"Does NHTSA really think this is OK? I'd like to know."

Tesla is already being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over issues with the company's Autopilot system.

Despite its name, Autopilot still requires drivers to agree to keep their hands on the wheel at all times and doesn't take full control of the car.

Owners can purchase the FSD software for an extra US$10,000, although the price is rising to $12,000 later this week. Founder Elon Musk has previously said FSD will lead to autonomous driving.

There have been a number of incidents where Teslas have struck emergency vehicles while operating in Autopilot mode.

The NHTSA also demanded to know why the company had failed to recall vehicles to update the system when that was a legal requirement.

There were also discussions in December when the ability to play games while driving was added by Tesla, the world's biggest electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer.

The FSD beta and 'assertive' mode is currently only available in the US, which might not be a bad thing given the reputation of some New Zealand drivers.

As one Kiwi pointed out: "Well, they couldn't just call it 'Auckland' mode could they?"