To answer the question - Yes it can drive itself but... let's delve in a little deeper.
Full disclaimer here - this account is all from the passenger seat - I have yet to engage cruise control, never mind Full Self Driving!! Far too scary!!
A few months ago, after weeks of waiting (sidekicks version), or in reality it was only a few days, we finally got the latest software update for the full self driving. This is suppose to make things better and smoother. So... lets see...
Prior to this, with version 1, the FSD was okay but not great. It felt like a very newly driving teenager and was rather impulsive and rather erratic in its behaviour. It got turned off a lot, as it just wasn't a nice car journey with it turned on.
So what is version 2 like? Let's find out by actually leaving the driveway - oh my goodness - I'm having that feeling of being a little anxious and apprehensive and nervous and well a bit of everything! Who knows what the car might or might not do! Once again (!), my sidekick is driving and as he sets off he turns on the full self driving and I grasp the door handle - you know, just in case! The car drives along smoothly and granted it does appear to be seeing the curves in the road ahead and adjusting the speed accordingly, although it is still a little jerky as it adjusts itself to the curve, it feels like it's constantly adjusting the steering wheel. On the straight roads absolutely no issues at all, apart from the fact that it doesn't see pot holes, so just drives straight into them, if we continue with this the suspension will be done for very soon! I am quite distracted by the the screen as it looks like something is coming out of the front of the car, that thick blue line does look odd. It makes me wonder if it gets too close to the car in front will it suddenly be covered in blue slime or obliterated?! The colours have been updated from version 1, notably the blue has replaced the grey. Anyway back to the driving - as we approach a junction it slows down but much later than we would do, so you get that lurching feeling as it realises that it needs to slow down faster to be able to stop at the junction. It pauses while it checks the junction and moves off when it determines it is safe to do so. Full marks for the turn but then I have to take away points as it accelerates too quickly, just because the speed limit is 35mph doesn't mean we have to get there in a nano second! A nice gentle acceleration would be much better, and definitely better for my stomach (remember the test drive of the Model S?). I feel very nervous on the back roads with the car driving, I know in reality it is looking all the time around it, but I feel that it still doesn't see things quite like we do and doesn't react in the same way we would do. The surge at take off is almost reminiscent of an aeroplane taking off!
I find this all quite frustrating, because we just don't drive like the Tesla is doing, so whose driving have they studied? Do people really zoom up to junctions and then break hard and then set off with their foot to the floor? Not anyone I've driven with.
But once on the motorway / highway the car drives so well. It stays in the middle of its lane and then depending on your selection of either mild, medium or mad Max mode, it will overtake on its own if it determines that the car in front is going too slow. As you might guess from the choices, they determine how much it overtakes and you can select the 'minimise lane changes for current drive' too, but we feel that should be the default anyway. The first time it put the indicator on and pulled out on its own was somewhat unnerving, as it wasn't expected. The car didn't announce that it was about to overtake the car in front, it just got on with it. This will take some getting use to and I'm not even in the drivers seat! It will also put itself back into the inside lane if it decides that is where you should be, also rather unnerving, and unannounced.
A few times now, it has tried to leave the motorway / highway of its own accord and ones sidekick had to take over promptly. Navigation wasn't on and we have no idea what it was thinking but I can only guess that the lanes had it confused or something. I mean, it's not like you can ask the car, "why did you do that?"
I think that the technology is great, that a car can drive itself is really something. But, I still don't think it's totally there yet, there are still some tweaks that need ironing out and it also needs to stop driving like an impulsive teenager on back roads.
I may, one day, at 3am, try FSD for myself, but right now - umm - well - you know - I'm not quite ready yet.
Breaking the Rules
Now, as you may or may not know, I am one for following the rules of the road. If the speed is limit is 35mph, then you should be doing 35 or less, not 40 not 45. I'll give you 36 and at a push 37, but that's it. So - speed signs are my problem with the FSD on the Tesla, it isn't following the rules. It can be driving along at 40mph in a 40mph zone and ahead we can see that there is a 30mph sign, the car does not see the sign until it has passed it and then breaks hard to slow down to 30, so you can have gone a quarter of a mile at the wrong speed. The same in reverse, we are doing 30mph and then it passes a 40mph sign and speeds up far too quickly to reach 40. It needs to see the signs earlier so it can anticipate that it needs to start slowing down ahead of time and then speed up gently once past the sign. It will stay at the speed limit but it just doesn't react quick enough, especially for slowing down. To me this is unacceptable and I make my sidekick turn off FSD before the speed sign so that we can slow down and be doing the correct speed when we reach the sign.
Another negative - while we were out driving the other day, we had FSD turned on and we were waiting at a green traffic light to turn left, there were cars coming towards us and the car waited patiently, but when a gap appeared - and not a very large gap - it suddenly lurched forwards turning the steering wheel with such force, that I thought we would crash into the cars sat waiting at the red traffic light. It didn't, but it made us both uneasy and FSD was turned off. It is things like that, that make the FSD not really ready for prime time use. I mean, really, who drives like that?
I began writing this post a while back and thought I won't post yet and will see how things go. There have been a couple of software updates in the meantime and they have not enhanced the FSD but actually made it worse. If you do not select "minimal lane changes" each time you begin your journey it is constantly changing lanes, and most of those times are unnecessary. It still attempts to leave the motorway for no reason - navigation is not turned on. It does seem to have a mind of its own at times. I am thinking it is just too unpredictable.
There is still a long way to go until Full Self Driving can be rolled out across all vehicles. But ever hopeful that one day it will be great and everyone will be using it and all vehicles will happily trundle along with no accidents and no aggressive driving and everyone will reach their destination at the right time feeling all relaxed and ready to go.
There is potentially a new update coming that may (or may not) sort out some of the above issues. We will see - watch this space...