Guest post: Blane Erwin, Current Automotive
It might not be robotaxi-ready yet, but Autopilot is already one of the leading semi-autonomous driving software suites available today. It has tons of features, is constantly being improved upon, and is the single biggest option most consider when considering a Tesla.
It’s also one of the most confusing features from Tesla. With four different hardware versions and four different software packages released over the years, it’s tough to keep track of what was available when, and what each system can do. It’s easier to understand the software once you know about the hardware that makes it all work. For a quick refresher, check out our comprehensive overview of Tesla’s Autopilot Hardware.
In short, Autopilot is really just a catch-all term that refers to Tesla’s entire suite of semi-autonomous driving features. Each feature has a specific task, such as maintaining speed, steering, or parking. Over the years, Tesla has sold four different Autopilot software packages that bundle these features together in different ways.
Tesla Autopilot Features
Traffic Aware Cruise Control uses the Tesla’s radar to lock-on to the vehicle in front of it and match its speed. Unlike many other automaker’s adaptive cruise control systems, Traffic Aware Cruise Control will bring Tesla all the way down to a stop and back up to speed again with no driver input required.
Autosteer uses the Tesla’s cameras to track lane lines. The car will then provide steering input necessary to keep a Tesla centered in its lane. While many other automakers use reactive “lane keep assist” systems that will bounce the car off of lane lines, Tesla actually steers proactively to handle relatively significant curves in the road. It cannot currently handle turns at intersections, and Tesla requires the driver to keep their hands on the wheel for the ability to make fast corrections as needed.
Auto Lane Change will automatically make a lane change. Initiate the lane change with the turn signal, indicating the desired lane. Autopilot will verify (or wait) for that lane to clear, then move the car over on its own.
Autopark will park the Tesla autonomously – hands off, for real. Drive at low speeds along parking spots, waiting for the screen to indicate that it sees a parking spot. The spot needs to be near other vehicles, as the car uses its sonar sensors to look for the space – it can’t see the painted lines. When it does find a suitable spot, put the car in reverse and click “Begin” on the Autopark prompt on the center screen. Autopark can park in both parallel and perpendicular parking spots.
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Summon allows the car to move without anyone inside of it, and it comes in two flavors: Basic Summon and Smart Summon. Basic Summon only allows straight forward and backwards movement while the driver pushes a button on the Tesla App. Smart Summon will enable the Tesla to autonomously navigate its way to the driver in a parking lot.
Navigate on Autopilot (beta) allows semi-autonomous driving and navigation from on-ramp to off-ramp on the highway. If the driver enters a destination that requires highway driving into the navigation system, an option for Navigate on Autopilot will appear. Navigate on Autopilot will make lane changes to overtake traffic, move out of the passing lane, make exits, and will travel through highway interchanges with no driver input required.
Stop Sign and Traffic Light Control (beta) is the first feature meant for use on city streets. Tesla vehicles with this feature can see and respond to stop signs and traffic signals. As of right now, the car will slow down for all signals (even if they’re green). The driver must give a confirmation tap on the drive selector stalk or accelerator pedal for the car to continue through an intersection.
Autosteer on City Streets (unreleased) is still unknown in scope. Based on the name, a reasonable expectation might be that it will be able to handle sharper turns typical of city streets and turn through intersections after the driver indicates the turn with the stalk.
Tesla Autopilot Software Packages
The above features have been bundled in four different ways over the years, as laid out in the chart below.
Full Self Driving is listed twice because it has been sold during two distinct time periods. Any car with Full Self Driving will have the same features, but the price paid for FSD may have differed depending on the time it was purchased.
Upgrade paths are available for all vehicles with any version of Autopilot Hardware. Tesla vehicles with Autopilot Hardware 1.0 but without Autopilot 1 software can still upgrade today, even though Autopilot 1 hasn’t been available new since 2016.
Vehicles with Autopilot Hardware 2.0 or greater can upgrade to basic Autopilot for $3,000, and cars with Basic Autopilot or Enhanced Autopilot can upgrade to Full Self Driving for $8,000 and $5,000 respectively.
Tesla has slowly been raising the price of Full Self Driving and may continue to do so in the future. The company has also said plans are in place to offer subscription options by the end of the year.
This story is an excerpt from an earlier article via Current Automotive; Editor’s Note: Current Automotive is the first-ever U.S. car retailer focused exclusively on used electric cars launched by two former Tesla employees.