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Tesla Autopilot – The Ultimate Guide

There’s no doubt that Tesla’s Autopilot is one of its most awesome, mind-bending features that seems like something straight out of the future.

But—if you’re shopping for a used Tesla, it can be hard to wrap your head around which Autopilot hardware/software version you should be looking for. On top of that, the Autopilot hardware and software options/offerings are changing at a rapid pace, making them even harder to understand.

So, we wanted to create another amazing, nerdy guide to help used Tesla buyers learn about all of the different Autopilot options throughout the years, and also understand how it works in general.

Sound like something you’re interested in? We thought so! Let’s dive right into our Ultimate Guide to Tesla Autopilot!

Tesla Autopilot Side Pillar

The Complete History
of Tesla Autopilot

WHAT EXACTLY IS TESLA AUTOPILOT? READ MORE

Truly understanding Tesla Autopilot (even as a used Tesla buyer) requires a short history lesson on how it came to be what it is today…

Let’s start with the most basic question—what is Autopilot?

What Is Autopilot?

In its simplest form, Autopilot is a series of driver assistance features that gives Tesla vehicles some level of autonomy.

Tesla Autopilot includes lane keeping, traffic-aware cruise control (TACC), self-parking, automatic lane changing, partially-autonomous navigation, and various accident avoidance features. Tesla Autopilot also includes various self-parking and reverse parking (Summon) features as well. Let’s take a look at the various Autopilot features and what they do…

Autopilot Original
Tesla Autopilot Side Repeater Camera

Autopilot Features Explained

Lane Keeping (Lane Departure Warnings/Avoidance)

Autopilot uses a variety of front/side cameras, as well as proximity sensors in order to understand the vehicle’s position in a lane relative to the lane lines and what it perceives to be drivable space. In the earlier versions of Autopilot, this was mostly done by visually reading the painted lane lines and processing that information. As Autopilot has become more advanced (more on this later), it’s gained the ability to understand (to an extent) what is drivable space, and what is not—relying less on clearly-defined lane lines.

Collision Avoidance (Front, Side)

In order to help avoid collisions, both from the front and the side, Tesla Autopilot uses cameras and proximity sensors to map the car’s environment in real time—differentiating between obstacles, other vehicles, and pedestrians. In the event that the vehicle senses a collision (depending upon the Autopilot software/hardware version, of course) it will make evasive maneuvers such as applying the brakes or steering the car away from a collision. In minor instances, it may simply shake the steering wheel slightly or chime to alert the driver that it senses imminent danger.

Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (TACC)

While many vehicles have traffic-aware cruise control, Tesla’s Autopilot is among the most sophisticated as it ties in data/inputs from the entire system in order to make determinations about vehicle spacing. In its simplest form, TACC is essentially cruise control that maintains a set distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you (which is an awesome feature on road trips). The great thing about Autopilot though is (in its latest iterations), it can actually do much more than just keep the distance—it can steer, brake, accelerate, keep the lane, and navigate.

Autosteer, Auto Acceleration, Auto Braking

Just like they sound, these features allow the vehicle to steer, accelerate/decelerate, and brake by itself (with driver monitoring, of course). The earlier iterations of Tesla Autopilot in the Model S had somewhat “robotic feeling” steering/braking, where the vehicle would slow unnecessarily, or steer in an unnatural-feeling way. Thankfully, this has changed in recent years with the introduction of hardware version 2 (HW2) and now feels much more like a human driver.

Auto Lane Changing

In recent versions of Autopilot hardware/software, Tesla vehicles are able to change lanes automatically (even sometimes without confirmation by the driver). This is a part of Autopilot that has evolved considerably over time, with the earlier versions being able to change a lane at a time with direct user input, to now—where the vehicle can actually change multiple lanes and overtake other vehicles on the highway. Most of the advanced auto lane changing features are part of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) package now, although some are included in the Enhanced Autopilot (EAP) package.

Tesla Vision Autopilot Camera Hardware

Summon/Smart Summon

Summon is an Autopilot feature that allows the vehicle to back out of a parking space while being “summoned” to the owner. It also allows the vehicle (with Smart Summon) to back out of a space and drive across a parking lot to the owner. Tesla has been working on this feature for some time, and it’s gone though many iterations. Despite these iterations, it still has a somewhat “beta” feel to it, often times being much slower than a human navigating the same situation. The most interesting aspect of Summon will be “Reverse Summon” where you can get out of the car and it will go park itself.

Auto Parking

Teslas have long had the ability to parallel park, and park in other spots with the tap of a button. While some people say this is a novelty feature, it can be quite helpful to those drivers who are bad at parallel parking or have trouble backing into parking spaces, as it is incredibly precise and effortless. This feature is available on vehicles with Enhanced Autopilot (EAP) and Full Self-Driving (FSD). If you’re someone who wants a little extra help with parking, it might be a worthwhile feature to look for when you’re shopping for a used Tesla.

Navigate on Autopilot (NoA)

Navigate on Autopilot is a feature for HW2+ vehicles that allows owners to set a destination and the Tesla will follow the course (similar to the driving directions on a smartphone), making automatic lane changes and overtaking vehicles on the road in order to keep pace with the set speed. It can also enter/exit freeways, and navigate freeway directional changes. While users have found some parts of this software lacking, the response have been overwhelmingly positive. So, if you’re in the market for a used Tesla, you may want to keep an eye out for vehicles equipped with NoA.

Traffic Light & Stop Sign Response

City driving with reactions to stop signs and traffic lights is part of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving package, and is not available in EAP or earlier versions of Autopilot software/hardware. This feature allows the vehicle to recognize stop signs and come to a complete stop, and do the same with traffic signals. The driver must use the Autopilot/turn signal level or press the accelerator pedal to confirm proceeding through lights. As time goes on, this will become an integral part of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving capabilities.

Full Self-Driving (FSD)

Currently this is the top tier software package that Tesla sells for Autopilot, and it carries an $8,000 price tag (which continues to rise as features are added). The FSD package includes Navigate on Autopilot (NoA), Smart Summon, auto parking, and city street driving. In most cases, when purchasing a used Tesla, this package will transfer along with the vehicle (much more on this below). Tesla has teased the idea that sometime in 2020/2021 FSD will be offered as a subscription service, and based on the up front payment price ($8,000), we expect that the subscription price will be north of $100 per month.

Tesla Autopilot Hardware & Software Timeline

Back in 2008 when the first Tesla Roadster was released, Autopilot didn’t even exist. While it was something that Elon and the company were always thinking about, there was no hardware or software in place. Even in the early mass production vehicles, Autopilot did not exist until the Model S had already been produced for a few years. In fact, 2014 was the first year that Autopilot became available in Tesla vehicles.

In order to understand the full timeline of Autopilot hardware/software changes, let’s take a look at the graphic below:

Infogrpahic Coming Soon

As you can see from the infographic above—Tesla has made continuous improvements to the Autopilot software and hardware since its inception in 2014.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the various hardware and software terms mentioned in the infographic in order to understand what they mean, and how they function.

Tesla Autopilot Engaged in Model X
Driving in traffic with Tesla's autopilot controlling distance from the lead car and centering the vehicle in the lane. Vehicle is a 2017 Model X 75D with dark interior.

Tesla Media Control Unit—What It Is & What It Does

The Tesla Media Control Unit (commonly referred to as the MCU) is the “brains” behind the screen in all Tesla vehicles. While it doesn’t have a lot to do with the actual Autopilot functions, it does control the selections and generates the maps.

In the Model S/X, the MCU is part of the center 17” touch screen. The module contains processors, RAM, the amplifiers for the stereo, the WiFi/Bluetooth/cellular functions, as well as the USB inputs and other connections. There are two different versions of the MCU in the Model S and Model X. These are:

MCU1—This version was produced from 2012 to February 2018 and underwent some small variations during that time. Some MCU1 versions do not have LTE connectivity, and are missing some other small features.

MCU2—This version was produced from March 2018 to present, and is much faster and more responsive. Tesla offers an official upgrade to MCU2 for $2,500.

Situational Awareness UI

Tesla Autopilot Hardware Versions Explained

In addition to the MCU, Tesla has also produced a variety of different Autopilot hardware versions over the years with a variety of different features.

The early Model S vehicles from 2012 to 2014 did not have any formal Autopilot capability, and had hardware version 0 (HW0) with MCU version 1 (MCU1).

From about 2014 to 2016, Tesla worked with a computer vision company called Mobileye to produce the first version of their Autopilot hardware (HW1). This hardware had one camera, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and radar sensors.

A big shift came in 2016 when Tesla unveiled Autopilot hardware version 2.0 (HW2). This version was completely created in house and bumped the number of cameras up from one to eight, and also utilized a new Nvidia GPU. This is the oldest hardware version that can handle Full Self-Driving features or can be upgraded to FSD, primarily because the holder HW1 vehicles are lacking the cameras necessary for FSD.

In 2017, Tesla upgraded the Autopilot hardware to version 2.5 (HW2.5) and this is the hardware that the Model 3 originally began shipping with. This is also the hardware version that made dash cam and sentry modes possible with the ability to record and save video.

2019 marked the year of Autopilot version 3.0 (HW3), which was a massive update, and the first to use Tesla’s very own chip design. This version is required for the Full Self-Driving package to operate some of the more advanced features.

In the future (most likely sometime in 2021), Tesla plans to release Autopilot hardware version 4.0 (HW4), which is the second iteration of their proprietary chip design which is expected to have many times the performance of the previous version.

To summarize the changes in MCU and Autopilot hardware versions, see the chart below:

Hardware
Version
Model S
(Date Available)
Model X
(Date Available)
Model 3
(Date Available)
Model Y
(Date Available)
HW0 6/22/2012
MCU1 6/22/2012 9/29/2015
HW1 9/17/2014 9/29/2015
HW2 10/1/2016 10/1/2016
MCU2 3/1/2018 3/1/2018 7/28/2017
HW2.5 8/1/2017 8/1/2017 7/28/2017
HW3 3/22/2019 3/22/2019 4/12/2019 3/13/2020
HW4 2021-TBD 2021-TBD 2021-TBD 2021-TBD

It’s also worth mentioning that in the Tesla community, Autopilot versions are simply referred to as “AP1” and “AP2” which mean the following:

AP1—this term refers to the 2014-2016 version of Tesla’s Autopilot hardware, produced by Mobileye with a single camera. This version does not have Smart Summon, Navigate on Autopilot, auto parking, and cannot support Full Self-Driving. It’s common on Model S/X variants such as P85D, 85D, and other popular models produced prior to October 2016.

AP2—this term refers to the October 2016 and later version of the Autopilot hardware which includes HW2, HW2.5, and HW3 with 8 cameras. This is common in the Model 3 and vehicles like the Model S/X P100D (although a small number of P100Ds have AP1 hardware), and Performance AWD. If you’re looking for the latest compatibility and features, you want to find a Tesla with AP2 hardware. And because of the increased compatibility, the used market price of used AP2 Teslas is higher.

Tesla Side Repeater Autopilot

Tesla Autopilot Software Package Levels Explained

Throughout all of the production years, there are a variety of Autopilot software packages that you could choose when building your Model S/X or 3/Y.

In order to help used Tesla buyers understand the differences in features that any given vehicle may have, we’ve taken each available package and provided an overview below:

Autopilot with Convenience Features

This was the very first Autopilot package for AP1 vehicles that included front collision avoidance, lane departure warnings, TACC, and autosteering/braking/accelerating. It also had the ability to auto park, read speed signs, and a rudimentary form of Summon where it could slowly drive forward and backward.

This package originally cost $2,500 from Tesla and was groundbreaking at the time.

Enhanced Autopilot (EAP)

Enhanced Autopilot was available on the Model S/X from October 2016 forward, and on the Model 3/Y since its inception. It includes Smart Summon, Navigate on Autopilot, and auto lane changes. It doesn’t include the Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control and Autosteer on City Streets (which is coming soon to FSD).

The price of this has varied over the years from $4,000 to $6,000, depending upon whether or not it was purchased with the vehicle originally or offered as an upgrade (Tesla occasionally does this, commonly at the end of financial quarters in a revenue push).

Base Autopilot

As of April 2019, Tesla made “base Autopilot” standard on all vehicles. This includes TACC and autosteer/braking/acceleration. While it doesn’t include any of the other bells and whistles that the EAP and FSD packages have, it is really nice to know that Tesla is raising the bar for all vehicle manufacturers to include some form of autonomy.

The only downside to this is if you purchased your Tesla before this happened, you paid extra for some features that are now standard.

Full-Self Driving (FSD)

Full Self-Driving is really the mother of all Autopilot packages, and it includes everything in EAP plus the Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control, as well as Autosteer on City Streets (rumored to be released sometime in 2020).

The FSD package carries a somewhat hefty price tag (currently at $8,000) and we believe that the price will likely increase again in the future as features are added (Elon has stated this on multiple occasions).

Enhanced Autopilot (EAP) vs. Full Self-Driving

Now that you’ve seen the different variations among Autopilot packages, how do EAP and FSD compare to each other?

Well, the difference in price is currently pegged at $4,000. And if you buy EAP, it’s another $5,000 currently to upgrade to FSD—so Tesla tacks on another $1,000 should you decide to upgrade in the future (which provides some incentive to buy FSD in the beginning).

That said—which package is the most worth it? It really depends, in our opinion, on the features that Tesla releases in the future and also on your individual budget. As the price increases over time, FSD is always going to represent the best value overall, but $8,000 is also a big chunk of money to most people.

With FSD—you’re currently getting some level of city autonomy for an extra $4,000—this is essentially what it boils down to in its current form. So the question really is—do you do enough city driving to make that $4,000 upgrade worth it? And, will the features they add in the future be worth the initial FSD investment? Elon claims that this package is going to get so good that Tesla vehicles will be “appreciating assets,” but we aren’t convinced of this just yet (even though we’re hopeful). So, is FSD worth it?

This answer to this question will be different for everyone, but it’s nice to know that Tesla provides owners with different tiers of accessibility to Autopilot depending upon their budgets. And of course—there are rumors that FSD may be offered as a subscription service in 2020/2021 (we’d guess for $100+ per month), so that may be another option worth waiting for if you’re interested in FSD but can’t shell $8k up front.

Tesla Autopilot Features

To summarize the full Autopilot feature list, we’ve created the following table:

Autopilot Feature Before September 2014 AP1 (2014-2016) Base Autopilot (2019+) Enhanced Autopilot (EAP) Full Self-Driving (FSD)
Front Collision Avoidance Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lane Departure Warnings Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lane Departure Avoidance Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Side Collision Avoidance Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (TACC) No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autosteer/Auto Acceleration/Auto Braking No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autopark No Yes No Yes Yes
Auto Lane Change No Yes No Yes Yes
Read Speed Signs No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Summon No Yes No Yes Yes
Smart Summon No No No Yes Yes
Navigate on Autopilot No No No Yes Yes
Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control No No No No Yes
Fully Autonomous/Self-Driving No No No No Upcoming

Which Teslas Have Autopilot?

If you’ve been thinking about Autopilot, you may have had the question on your mind—does every Tesla have Autopilot?

And the simple answer to that question is—no, not every Tesla has Autopilot. But there’s obviously a longer-form answer as well.

Prior to September 2014, no Teslas had Autopilot. And from September 2014 and later, all Teslas as least have the capability for some version of Autopilot.

In/around October 2016, Tesla released version 2.0 of their Autopilot hardware (HW2), and this was not long after the P100D Model S/X were created.

So there are some P100D Model S/X vehicles with AP1 hardware, but most have AP2 hardware. Prior to the P100D models, almost all S/X vehicles have AP1 hardware (with the exception of a few P90D/90D Model S/X vehicles).

All Model 3 and Model Y vehicles have AP2 hardware, and all Tesla vehicles after April 2019 have base Autopilot standard (with the option to upgrade to EAP or FSD).

Can Older Teslas Get Autopilot?

The answer to this question depends on what’s meant by “older Teslas.”

Teslas that are manufactured before September 2014 do not have Autopilot and cannot be upgraded to any form of Autopilot (AP1 or AP2)

September 2014 to September 2016 Teslas generally have AP1 hardware and cannot be upgraded past that.

October 2016 and later Teslas have AP2 hardware and do not need an upgrade, but the MCU in S/X can be upgraded, and if FSD is purchased, Tesla will upgrade the computer to the FSD computer where applicable (such as in an earlier Model 3 or Model S/X).

Tesla autopilot intelligent lane change

Tesla Autopilot Price—How Much Is Autopilot?

One of the most popular questions that people have about Autopilot is—how much does it cost?

And the answer to that question is—it really depends on where you’re starting, and what package you’re looking to upgrade to.

For example, if you have base Autopilot and want to upgrade to FSD, this will be a different price than upgrading from base Autopilot to EAP, or EAP to FSD. So, let’s take a look at the different scenarios and Autopilot upgrade paths.

Can I Upgrade My Tesla Autopilot?

We’ve already covered the hardware upgrades in multiple sections in this guide (which can be done in some situations and not in others). But the answer to this question is—yes, you can upgrade your Autopilot (software), unless you already have FSD, which is the highest level.

Upgrading No Autopilot to Base Autopilot

If you have a vehicle without any Autopilot whatsoever, it will cost you approximately $3,000 in upgrade fees to get base Autopilot. The only scenario where this is applicable is the $35,000 Standard Range RWD Model 3 (which comes with the Autopilot hardware, but no software features enabled).

Upgrading from Base Autopilot to Enhanced Autopilot (EAP)

If you have a Tesla vehicle with base Autopilot (only lane keeping and TACC on the freeway), it will cost approximately $4,000 to upgrade to Enhanced Autopilot (EAP). This gives you Navigate on Autopilot, Auto Lane Change, Autopark, and Smart Summon.

Upgrading from Enhanced Autopilot (EAP) to Full Self-Driving (FSD)

If you already have Enhanced Autopilot (EAP), it costs $5,000 to upgrade to Full Self-Driving.

You might be saying to yourself—wait a minute, isn’t FSD $8,000? So shouldn’t it cost $4,000 to upgrade?

And your math would be correct, but Tesla charges an extra $1,000 in this scenario for not upgrading to FSD the first time around.

At any given point if you upgrade from base Autopilot to Full Self-Driving, it’s $8,000 currently (but this price may increase as time goes on). So, there is some incentive to take the plunge and upgrade directly to FSD the first time around.

As mentioned in other places in this article, there are rumors that in 2020/2021 Tesla will make FSD a subscription service so you don’t have to shell out $8,000 all at once, but we fully expect the price of the subscription service to be more than $100 per month given the total cost of the software when paid in full.

Is Autopilot Worth It?

We definitely think Autopilot is worth it! And, it’s getting better every day! Tesla is adding features every few months that make life easier, and once they add things like Reverse Summon where the car can drop you off and go park itself, it will be a game changer!

If you’ve not driven a Tesla, Autopilot is truly something to experience. It’s definitely a stress reliever just to have the car drive a little bit for you in traffic or on road trips (even though you obviously need to be alert and ready to take over at all times).

Tesla Autopilot Software Updates Explained

The great thing about Tesla Autopilot is that it keeps getting better and better over time because software updates can be sent over-the-air (OTA) from Tesla directly to your vehicle.

Tesla has dramatically improved Autopilot over time with these types of updates in order to add new features, fix bugs, and make sure that the vehicle is operating in tip top shape.

Tesla has added features like Smart Summon, Navigate on Autopilot, and even Traffic and Stop Light Control just by remote software updates.

The great thing about Tesla is that since they make the hardware and the software (similar to Apple), they can fine tune things very easily, and things “just work” compared to other auto manufacturers who rely on a variety of companies to come together in many different ways to make their products function properly.

Tesla Over the Air Autopilot Update

Over The Air (OTA) Autopilot Updates

As mentioned above, the OTA updates are one of the coolest things about Teslas because your cars gets upgrades that you never even knew were possible, and you don’t have to do anything (well, almost anything).

In order to receive an OTA Autopilot update, you simply need to navigate to the “Software” tab on your touch screen. If a new update is available, you just tap the option to install the update and the car takes care of the rest.

One important thing to note is that Tesla updates are best installed over WiFi, so it’s often a good idea to update at home when you’re in range of your WiFi router.

Notable Autopilot Software Updates

Some awesome and notable Autopilot updates that happened (or were optional) completely over the air (OTA) include:

  • Stop light and road sign visualization (December 2019)
  • Navigate on Autopilot – (April 2019)
  • Smart Summon – (September 2019)
  • Traffic and Stop Sign Control – (September 2020)
  • Enhanced Autopilot (EAP) upgrade option – (September 2020)

Is Tesla Autopilot Safe?

In a one word answer—yes, Tesla Autopilot is very safe, and is many times more so than a human driver.

There are a lot of reasons for this, and while computers do make errors, they do not get tired, distracted, emotional, or end up in any other state that would cause them to lose focus on driving.

Sure, Autopilot isn’t perfect, but it’s clear based on NHTSA and Tesla internal data that it is many times safer than a human driver already. Let’s take a look at just how good it is…

Enhanced Autopilot features assist with the most burdensome parts of driving.

How Good is Autopilot?

Tesla reported that as of Q2 2020, there was approximately one accident for every 4.53 million miles driven with Autopilot on and engaged.

In contrast to this data, there was approximately one accident every 2.27 million miles without Autopilot engaged, but with Tesla’s other active safety features engaged.

Finally, for people driving without Tesla’s active safety features, and also without Autopilot, there was approximately one accident every 1.56 million miles.

Given this data, it stands to reason that Autopilot is approximately 3 times safer than a human driver, although Tesla has quoted this figure as high as 9 times safer than a human driver.

Tesla introduces ticket-avoidance-mode for Model S (April Fools joke from 2015)

Is Autopilot Legal?

In the US, Autopilot is completely legal, but the human driver must be attentive and ready to take control of the vehicle at all times.

Tesla has also configured the software so that it requires small, continuous inputs on the steering wheel (i.e. the driver must keep their hands on the wheel) while it is engaged. If the driver doesn’t do this, then Autopilot will first warn the driver (sometimes called “Autopilot nag” in the Tesla community). If the driver still doesn’t listen, Autopilot will disengage completely for the remainder of that trip.

While there are many driver safety features in place with Autopilot, its legality may vary among different jurisdictions. So, if you’re considering purchasing a Tesla, make sure to check your local laws to ensure that Autopilot is legal.

Full-Self Driving—Where It Is & Where’s It’s Going

Full Self-Driving (FSD) is undoubtedly one of the most compelling aspects of Tesla vehicles. If you haven’t experienced it, it’s something that feels straight out of science fiction.

However, the Full Self-Driving name is currently somewhat of a misnomer, because Teslas aren’t yet fully autonomous. But autonomy is definitely on the horizon, and this is exciting to a large number of current Tesla owners, and also to prospective buyers and investors.

When will Tesla cars be able to drive themselves? How close are we to that now? Let’s jump in and take a look!

Current FSD Capabilities

Currently, the Full Self-Driving software package offers the following features:

  • Navigate on Autopilot
  • Auto Lane Change
  • Autopark
  • Smart Summon
  • Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control


Tesla also lists the following as “Coming Soon:”

  • Autosteer on City Streets

Looking at this list, it’s clear that FSD has some really awesome capabilities now, with even more to come in the future.

Activating Autopilot in Model 3 and Model Y

Future FSD Capabilities

What’s on the horizon for FSD? Well, that depends on how quickly Tesla makes good on their promise to develop fully autonomous vehicles.

But as of now, we know that Tesla is working diligently on solving the problem of computer vision, and once they do this, there will be no need for LiDAR or any other type of expensive sensors beyond cameras and proximity sensors.

In terms of AI, computer vision isn’t exactly an easy problem to solve. We know that Tesla’s head of AI, Andrej Karpathy, and Elon Musk have stated they’re confident that level 5 autonomy (AKA full autonomy) will be possible by the end of 2020.

Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control (Beta)

What’s level 5 autonomy, you ask? Great question—let’s check out the chart below based on the Society of Automotive Engineers standards:

SAE AUTONOMY LEVEL WHAT DOES THE DRIVER DO?
0 You ARE driving and must constantly supervise. Support features are limited to things like automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, and blind spot warnings.
1 You ARE STILL driving, but there are more assistance features such as lane centering OR, adaptive cruise control (TACC) OR, acceleration/braking assistance.
2 You ARE STILL driving, but the assistance features can work in tandem. Lane centering can happen WHILE adaptive cruise control is working, etc.
3 You are NOT driving, but must be alert in the driver’s seat and when the system request, you must drive. The vehicle can be driven under limited conditions such as traffic jams.
4 You are NOT driving, and will not be required to take over. However, this system will only work under certain conditions.
5 You are NOT driving, and will not be required to take over. This system will operate itself and by fully self-driving under all conditions.

Currently, Tesla’s Autopilot with FSD is somewhere between a 2 and 3 in terms of autonomy, and it’s quite a big jump for them to get to level 5 by the end of 2020.

When Will Tesla Vehicles Be Fully Autonomous?

No one knows for sure. Tesla says this will happen by the end of 2020 as mentioned above, but it’s not a linear curve jumping from one SAE autonomy level to the next—there are exponential amounts of progress in AI that need to be made in order for this to be possible and for computer vision to be on level that’s even close to humanlike, let alone beyond human capacity.

Tesla has talked about the robo taxi program as well, where they will not allow Model 3 lease holders to buy their cars back at the end of the lease, because Tesla wants to have a fleet of vehicles available and ready for autonomous robo taxis—doesn’t that sound like something straight out of science fiction? It does to us!

Our best guess in terms of when Tesla’s Autopilot will be close to level 5 autonomy is the end of 2022, possibly 2023, but as Elon has said—these improvements aren’t being made on a linear time scale, so hopefully they surprise us and it happens sooner!

Will FSD Be Offered as a Subscription Service?

There have been a lot of people asking about whether or not Tesla will offer Full Self-Driving (FSD) as a subscription service—and while we don’t know for sure (only Tesla knows this), we believe that this will happen sometimes in 2020 or 2021.

In a recent Reddit thread by u/Callump01, this user did some reverse engineering on the Tesla app and found a screenshot showing a “Subscribe” column in addition to the “Buy” column, which hints at the fact that Tesla may be getting ready to unveil this.

Given that the full subscription price is currently $8,000, we expect that the monthly subscription cost will be more than $100 per month if charged on a monthly basis (although no one knows for sure until Tesla releases this option).

Tesla Autopilot vs. Competitors

When looking at semi-autonomous vehicles, Tesla’s Autopilot is one of the first systems that comes to mind, and it is definitely the most popular (both among actual usage by drivers, and also in pop culture).

That said, there are other competitors (if you can call them that), in a variety of areas. So, let’s take a look at these competitors and how they match up against Tesla’s Autopilot in terms of technology and also in terms of function.

Cadillac Super Cruse

Cadillac Super Cruse vs. Tesla Autopilot

Cadillac Super Cruise is an interesting system because it doesn’t actually require the driver to keep their hands on the wheel in order to continue operating (although it obviously requires drivers to be in the car and ready to take over).

The massive downside to Super Cruise is that it only works on the highway, and uses predefined mapping in order to operate. This is essentially like operating on rails, and because the car can’t actually “see,” when something goes wrong with the map (or is unmapped), you’re stuck. This in no way is actually self-driving, and Tesla has been pretty critical of this approach.

Waymo Minivan

Tesla Autopilot vs. Waymo

Waymo is the autonomous car and technology company that’s part of Google, and they’ve been working on driverless cars for quite some time now. Again, Tesla has been pretty critical of Waymo for one main reason—that it uses LiDAR and HD maps in order to drive on the roads.

Andrej Karpathy (Tesla’s head of AI) likens this again to being “on rails,” where everything is mapped out to centimeter level accuracy, and he says that there are a lot of assumptions being made in this approach that can go wrong. In contrast, Tesla’s approach is working toward achieving true computer vision where the car actually sees and understands the environment the same way a human driver does.

Ford Co-Pilot 360

Ford Co-Pilot 360 vs. Tesla Autopilot

Ford Co-Pilot 360 is sort of a “dumbed down” version of Tesla’s Autopilot, and they aren’t effectively working toward ways for the vehicle to drive itself like Tesla.

Co-Pilot 360 offers simple features such as a back up camera, automatic headlights, automatic pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and all of the standard driver assistance features you’d expect in a package like that. That said, there are no capabilities (even on the horizon) for it to be fully self-driving or even mimic Tesla’s Navigate on Autopilot, so it seems Ford is quite behind on this one.

Volvo Pilot Assist

Tesla Autopilot Compared to Volvo Pilot Assist

Similar to many of the other basic driver assist packages from most other automakers, Volvo Pilot Assist is really just a bunch of simple lane keeping and TACC features tied together in a single package.

Volvo Pilot Assist includes uses cameras and radar units in order to measure distance and read the lane lines. The system takes these inputs and uses other calculations to provide steering assistance and the lane/speed keeping as mentioned above along with TACC. Is this system on par with Tesla’s Autopilot? Nope—it’s pretty rudimentary in comparison with no plans for full self-driving that we know of.

BMW Driver Assistance Plus

BMW Driver Assistance Plus vs. Tesla Autopilot

As with most of the driver assistance systems from traditional auto makers, BMW’s Driver Assistance Plus package is really more of a “driving aid” system than a push toward true autonomy.

The BMW Driver Assistance Plus package offers hill start assist, road sign recognition, emergency brake assist, steering and lane guidance assist, cruise control, distance control, speed limit assist, lane change warning/lane change assist, and parking assist. While all of these features are great, they were common on Teslas year ago, and there doesn’t really seem to be any large effort on BMW’s part to push them much further.

Mercedes-Benz Distronic Plus

Tesla Autopilot Compared to Mercedes-Benz DISTRONIC PLUS

Mercedes-Benz DISTRONIC PLUS is probably the most limited, rudimentary system in this entire comparison (which is a disappointment coming from a luxury auto manufacturer who has been known for their safety innovations in the past).

Essentially, DISTRONIC PLUS just keeps the gap between your car and the car in front of you, which is really just TACC—nothing more, nothing less. It would be great to see Mercedes-Benz put some work into this area and come out with something really great, but as far as we can see, that doesn’t appear to be happening.

Chevy Driver Confidence

Chevrolet Driver Confidence vs. Tesla Autopilot

The Chevrolet Driver Confidence package is a little bit better than some of the bare bones TACC systems offered by other auto manufacturers, but it’s still quite a bit behind Tesla’s Autopilot.

Chevrolet’s Driver Confidence package offers lane keeping, collision warnings, emergency braking, and a back up camera, but doesn’t really appear to be moving toward any type of meaningful autonomy in the way that Tesla is. One set back that Chevrolet (and other manufacturers) have is that the sheer amount of vehicle/AI data Tesla has is so far beyond everyone else now that it may be almost impossible to catch up.

Used Teslas and Autopilot

One of the biggest questions that used Tesla buyers have on their mind when it comes to Autopilot is whether or not Autopilot will transfer in the event of a sale.

There are a lot of scenarios and different ways that someone can acquire a used Tesla (from a private party, from a dealer, etc.)—and we’re going to try and cover all of those in this section so you fully-understand the ways that Autopilot may (or may not) transfer depending upon how you’ve purchased your used Tesla.

Sound good? Alright, let’s dive into some specifics…

Does Autopilot Transfer If You Buy a Used Tesla?

Before you even start thinking about whether or not Autopilot will transfer, you need to first verify that the car you’re thinking of purchasing actually has the features you want. For example, if the owner says that it has Enhanced Autopilot (EAP) or Full Self-Driving (FSD), you need to make sure that these features are present, paid for, and properly attributed to the car—and there are a few ways that you can do that.

Verifying Autopilot Status in the Upgrade Section of the Tesla App

You can have the current owner (via video or in person) navigate to the “Upgrade” section on their Tesla app.

If they’ve already purchased EAP or FSD for example, those upgrades will not be available in the app. And, some of the features that those upgrades provide (like Smart Summon) will be available in the app.

While this is one way to check, we really prefer the next way to be sure

Verifying Autopilot Status Directly With Tesla

If you want to make sure that the vehicle you’re purchasing has a specific feature, you can reach out to Tesla and find out by giving them the VIN number. Just be sure that the VIN number is the correct one that is associated with the vehicle you’re considering purchasing.

Don’t trust anyone who simply gives you a VIN number in a screenshot or in another format—you need to be SURE when purchasing a used vehicle.

With all that said—let’s take a look at the scenarios where Autopilot may (or may not) transfer.

Buying a Used Tesla With Autopilot From a Private Party

Does Autopilot transfer when buying a used Tesla from a private party? The answer is generally yes—it does. So long as the car hasn’t been in the hands of a third-party dealer.

People consistently purchase Tesla vehicles from private parties and retain the Autopilot upgrades like EAP and FSD, so this is generally something that works well.

However, it’s important to note that Tesla does own the full rights to this software and can remove it over-the-air (OTA) if they decide to—so unless you’re the original purchaser, this is never a 100% guarantee (although it seems to work well most of the time).

Purchasing a Used Tesla from a Dealer with Autopilot On It

Will Autopilot upgrades like EAP and FSD transfer if you purchase a Tesla from a dealer? Maybe, but not always.

There have been occasions where Tesla found out that one of there vehicles was in an auction, and then at a dealer, and then sold to a private party and they removed the Autopilot software upgrades (and they have every right to do this, as they own the software).

So, when purchasing from a dealer, it may wise to weight the value of software upgrades a little less as Tesla has been known to get weird about their cars changing too many dealership/auction hands while still retaining the features that a previous owner paid for.

Purchasing a Used Tesla Directly From Tesla (CPO)

This is the safest way to ensure that a used Tesla will retain the Autopilot features (such as EAP or FSD), because you’re buying directly from Tesla, and as part of your purchase agreement, you’ll have an outline of which features the vehicle has or does not have.

It’s important to note that just because someone paid for software like FSD and traded the car into Tesla doesn’t mean that they won’t charge the next owner for it again (which they have every right to do). If you’re buying a CPO car, the software options that the car previously had have no bearing on the price that you’ll pay for the current software options, unfortunately.

Tesla Autosteer Plus

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Tesla Autopilot, Full-Self Driving & More

We’ve covered tons of topics in so far in this ultimate guide to Tesla Autopilot, but in order to make sure we’ve left no stone unturned, we created an FAQ section to answer popular questions being asked across the web about Tesla Autopilot. So, if you’re looking for even more info, jump right in!

Do all Teslas have Autopilot?

No—all Teslas do not have Autopilot. Tesla built prior to September 2014 do not have any type of Autopilot, although they do have some relatively rudimentary (compared to Autopilot now) collision avoidance and lane departure warning features.

Can you upgrade an AP1 car to AP2?

No—you cannot upgrade any AP1 car to AP2. There are a few mad scientists who have tried adding Autopilot to non-AP cars, but no one (that we know of) has successfully done the AP1 to AP2 conversion.

Either way—99.9% of Tesla owners aren’t interested in a DIY situation of that magnitude, so the straight answer for that question is no—there’s no factory upgrade option and for all intents and purposes, it’s not possible to upgrade AP1 hardware to AP2 hardware.

So, if you want an AP2 car—make sure to buy an AP2 car as upgrading is definitely not realistic.

What year did Tesla Autopilot come out?

Tesla Autopilot was first released in September 2014. Prior to that Teslas had some basic crash avoidance features, but that was not true Autopilot.

Autopilot version 2.0 (HW2) was released in October 2016, which included 7 additional cameras (for a total of 8), as well as a new GPU and a variety of other features.

Can Tesla Autopilot turn?

Yes—it can! Tesla Autopilot has a feature called Autosteer, which can turn and drive the car on the highway.

It can also turn the wheel many times in order to parallel park or back into a parking spot.

Tesla is also rumored to release Autosteer for city streets sometime in 2020 or early 2021.

Which year Tesla has Autopilot?

Teslas produced since September 2014 have Autopilot, with AP1 being produced until September 2016, and AP2 vehicles being product from October 2016 to present.

Can you add Autopilot to a 2013 Tesla?

No, you can’t add Autopilot to a 2013 Tesla. There are some extreme DIY-ers who have successfully done this, but it requires a tremendous amount of knowledge and custom work.

For all intents and purposes, this is not possible for 99.9% of Tesla owners, and Tesla themselves offer no option to do this. You’re much better off buying a used Tesla that already has Autopilot if you’re looking to save money.

Does Tesla Autopilot stop at stop signs?

Yes—it does! Ever since Tesla released update 2020.12.6, owners with the Full Self-Driving package have been able to take advantage of the Traffic and Stop Sign Control feature that does indeed stop at stop signs (and stop lights).

How long can a Tesla drive on Autopilot?

A Tesla can drive on Autopilot for the entire charge of the vehicle’s battery—so long as the owner is present to intervene, and no events occurs that disengage Autopilot from happening (such as pressing the brake pedal, or the vehicle sensing some type of danger). In fact, many people successfully do this on road trips.

How many miles has Tesla Autopilot driven?

As of April 2020, Tesla vehicles have driven more than 3 billion miles on Autopilot.

How reliable is Tesla Autopilot?

Not only do all Tesla vehicles have the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle ever tested by the US Government, but their active safety features create an added layer of safety—and the Autopilot suite is one of those important features.

Let’s take a look at some numbers…

As of Q2 2020, there was one accident for every 4.53 million miles driven with Autopilot engaged.

In contrast, there was one accident every 2.27 million miles without Autopilot engaged, but with the active safety features.

For people driving without Tesla’s active safety features, and without Autopilot, there was one accident every 1.56 million miles.

So, in terms of reliability, Autopilot is approximately 3 times safer than a human driver, although Tesla has reported this number as high as 9 times safer.

How do you activate Tesla Autopilot on Model S and X?

To activate Autopilot in the Model S and X, you “double press” the cruise stalk by pulling it toward you twice in rapid succession.

How do you activate Tesla Autopilot on Model 3 and Y?

To activate Autopilot in the Model 3 and Y, you “double press” the right control stalk downward twice in rapid succession.

Did someone really take a Tinder date out in their Tesla Model S to do questionable things while on Autopilot?

Well, um, it appears they did…

We’re not advocating for the dangerous driving part of that whole thing—but yes, it appears some adult (film) stars made a steamy video doing a variety of things in a Model S while Autopilot was engaged.

This became so popular that Elon Musk himself retweeted the video and commented on the subject…

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1126589271454785536

How many Autopilot crashes have there been?

As of Q2 2020, there is about 1 crash for every 4.53 million miles driven on Autopilot.

How many times safer is Autopilot than a human driver?

As of Q2 2020, Autopilot is about 3 times safer than a human driver, but Tesla has reported this number as high as 9 times safer.

Did Tesla bring back the Enhanced Autopilot (EAP) upgrade?

Yes—they did! Tesla commonly releases end-of-quarter deals to help raise revenue, and this last quarter, they did exactly that.

On September 19, 2020, many Tesla owners found that in the “Upgrades” section of their Tesla app, Enhanced Autopilot was available for $4,000 (half the cost of the $8,000 FSD package).

This deal may come and go in the future, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for it at the end of financial quarters if you’re looking to upgrade but don’t want to pay the full price for FSD.

Does Autopilot come standard on a Tesla?

Yes, it does! Ever since April 2019, Tesla includes the base level Autopilot (lane keeping, TACC, etc.) on the highway with all new Teslas.

Prior to that, the hardware for Autopilot has been on all vehicles since September 2014, with version two (AP2) hardware launching in October 2016.

Even if a Tesla didn’t previously have Autopilot software purchased, the hardware is there so the owner can upgrade to whatever version their vehicle hardware supports.

Where can I buy a used Tesla that already has Autopilot?

The best place to buy a used Tesla is right here on Find My Electric!

Not only do we offer the easiest way to search and find the exact Tesla you’re looking for, but if you’re interested in selling yours—we make that super easy too!

Check out our used Teslas for sale if you’re in the market to buy and save some money on a nice Tesla with Autopilot! And if you’re ready to sell your Tesla, sign up and create your ad in minutes!

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