Tesla Says 'Full Self-Driving' Software Remains a Priority as Profits Boom

While announcing record profits for the fourth quarter and last year overall, Tesla and CEO Elon Musk reiterated their commitment to the company's "Full Self-Driving" software and their belief that it can be developed safely.

Tesla reported $5.5 billion in profits over the last year, topping the company's previous record of $3.47 billion in 2020, according to The Associated Press.

"There should no longer be doubt about the viability and profitability of electric vehicles," Tesla said in a letter to shareholders, according to the AP.

Considering the "Full Self-Driving" software is being tested by owners of almost 60,000 Teslas across the U.S., Musk said he would be surprised if the software isn't capable of driving safer than humans by the end of the year, a claim he has made dating back several years according to The New York Times.

The 60,000 vehicles using the $12,000 software is a spike from about 2,000 during the third quarter, the AP reported. Tesla also said the increased effectiveness of the software would accelerate the profitability of the company.

The system is currently described as a "driver-assist" system, capable of switching lanes without driver intervention and identifying stop signs and traffic lights, the Times reported. Tesla still says that drivers using the system should be prepared to take over control of the car at any time, the AP reported.

Federal regulators in November began investigating a complaint from someone who used the software and claimed that the car changed lanes into the wrong lane, causing an accident, the AP reported.

Tesla Electric Vehicles Elon Musk Record Profits
Close up of Tesla logo on a charger at a Supercharger rapid battery charging station for the electric vehicle company Tesla Motors, in the Silicon Valley town of Mountain View, California, Aug. 24, 2016. Tesla reported record profits in the last year of over $5 billion. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The "Full Self-Driving" software has also been criticized by others in the automotive industry, with one opposing CEO taking out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times attacking the software, according to Insider. The business publication also reported that the ad was likely designed to produce publicity for the company whose CEO purchased it.

It was also announced in August that regulators were investigating issues with the "Autopilot" software used by hundreds of thousands of Tesla vehicles that is designed to keep the car at a comparable speed to traffic around it and stay in one lane, according to the AP.

The "Autopilot" system is being investigated for at least a dozen accidents, several of which involved cars crashing into parked emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances, The Times reported.

The company also announced Wednesday that it will not begin production on new models of vehicles in 2022 due to the ongoing shortage of the computer chips used in the cars, and instead will focus on maintaining current production levels of existing models, according to the AP.

Tesla delivered about 936,000 vehicles in 2021, about double the figure it delivered in 2020, and executives said they expected similar growth for the next several years, the AP reported.