Update March 1, 2019: Tesla has changed the Autopilot lineup and Enhanced Autopilot is no longer offered, see this article for more information and FAQs.
When researching Tesla vehicles you may come across features and options called, “Autopilot”, “Enhanced Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving”. All of which begs the question, what is Autopilot vs “Enhanced Autopilot” vs Full Self-Driving? We explain the differences below.
Note that as of March 2019, Enhanced Autopilot is no longer offered as an option and instead only Autopilot and Full Self-Driving are offered.
Standard Active Safety Features
All new Tesla vehicles (built after 2016) come with a suite of sensors around the vehicle, including cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar that allow the vehicle to understand and react to its environment. Using a powerful computer and software, the vehicle comes standard with the following free active safety features:
- Lane Assist
- Collision Avoidance Assist
- Speed Assist
- Auto High Beam
These core safety features are somewhat similar to ones found standard on other vehicles, but with additional ‘intelligence’ built-in and continually improved via Tesla over-the-air software updates (something no other auto manufacturer currently does). Before the March 2019 Autopilot renaming, these were confusingly referred to as ‘standard Autopilot’, but now are simply included with the vehicles.
Here’s a breakdown of each one.
The Tesla Lane Assist feature does three things:
- Alerts you if you drift from your lane (called Lane Departure Warning, similar to traditional Lane Keeping Assist functions)
- Warns you if there’s an object in your blind spot (like Blind Spot Monitoring in other cars)
- Intervenes if it believes you may drift into an adjacent object when driving between 30 and 85 mph.
Of the three features above, only Land Departure Warning is an option. When turned on, it will vibrate the steering wheel when it believes you are drifting out of the lane. You can turn this on and off in the Tesla Settings menu under Controls > Autopilot > Lane Departure.
The Tesla blind spot warning feature will turn the lanes on the display red if it detects an object in the blind spot when you turn on the blinker.
Finally, the steering intervention functionality will automatically steer the vehicle into a safer position within the driving lane if it detects that a potential collision with an adjacent vehicle is imminent (for example, if you accidentally drift into a lane with a car in it). It only works between 30 and 80 mph on major roadways where the lane markings are clearly visible.
Collision Avoidance Assist
The Collision Avoidance Assist portion of standard Autopilot functionality provides the following features:
- Forward Collision Warning – this provides an audible and visual warning if the vehicle determines there is a high risk of a frontal collision.
- Side Collision Warning – this warns the driver of potential collisions along the side of the vehicle.
- Automatic Emergency Braking – this will automatically apply the brakes if there is an imminent frontal collision to help reduce or avoid impact.
- Obstacle-Aware Acceleration – this reduces the vehicle’s speed if it detects an object in it’s driving path
Forward Collision Warning portion of Autopilot will not only detect vehicles, but also motorcycles, pedestrians and bicyclists. It utilizes the sensors and cameras placed around the vehicle, plus the sophisticated neural network used by Tesla to identify objects. The Forward Collision Warning is the first alert to the driver, and if no action is taken the other systems such as Automatic Emergency Braking come into play.
Side Collision Warning is similar to Forward Collision Warning above but monitors the side of the car. In some cases, it will actually apply steering to avoid a collision, if possible.
Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) works by utilizing the forward looking cameras and radar to determine if a collision is imminent. If a collision is considered unavoidable, Tesla AEB will apply the brakes to reduce the severity of impact, or avoid it altogether, if possible. It works between 7 mph and 90 mph.
Obstacle-Aware Acceleration is meant to reduce the impact of a collision by reducing motor torque. What does that mean? If the vehicle detects an object in its path while you are pressing the accelerator pedal, it will reduce the power to the motors to mitigate potential damage to the vehicle and object. For example, if you intend to back out of your garage, but accidentally put the vehicle in forward Drive, it will detect an object in front and reduce speed to reduce damage.
Speed Assist uses GPS data and speed limit signs to help determine the car’s position and what the speed limit should be. Using that information, it can optionally be set to warn the driver on screen or via a Chime if you’re exceeding the speed limit. On the Model 3, you can also press the displayed speed limit sign on the touchscreen to automatically set the speed to the current speed limit.
Auto High Beam
Auto High Beam will automatically turn High Beams on or off depending on the surroundings. If the vehicle detects there is enough light or another car is approaching, it will turn off High Beams. Conversely, if it is sufficiently dark, it will automatically turn on High Beams.
Autopilot is an optional feature, than when enabled, unlocks new features in the vehicle, allowing it steer itself and automatically accelerate and brake for other vehicles and pedestrians within its lane.
This is similar to other cars today that have Stop-and-Go Assisted Cruise Control plus Lane Centering (see Cars with Autopilot). However, in Tesla’s case the system is far more powerful and accurate, using cameras all around the vehicle and AI computing hardware. In addition, updates are made continually over the air – something no other manufacturer currently offers.
Autopilot provides these core features:
Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC)
This feature is similar to what’s often called Dynamic Cruise Control in other cars. It allows you set set a speed and following distance to other cars and will then automatically speed up or slow down depending of the speed of the vehicle in front of you. It work at all speeds up to 90 mph and in stop-and-go traffic. It’s a real life-saver during rush-hour commutes.
Once the Autopilot system detects clear lane markings, it will allow the driver to engage Autosteer that works in conjunction with TACC above. This allow the vehicle to steer itself as long as conditions allow and the driver has their hands on the wheel (the driver must still pay attention).
Assisted Lane Changes
While Autosteer and TACC are active, you can have the vehicle change lanes automatically once it’s safe to do so by turning on the blinker towards the desired lane to which you’d like to switch. The vehicle will review the surroundings and make the lane change once it’s safe to do so.
What About ‘Enhanced Autopilot’?
Prior to March 2019, Tesla sold a different lineup of Autopilot offerings. Previously ‘Autopilot’ simply meant the active safety features mentioned above, which was a bit confusing. ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ was an optional offering that included the basic Autopilot features plus some of the features in Full Self-Driving, including Navigate-on-Autopilot, Summon and Auto Park.
Enhanced Autopilot is no longer offered, but customers who purchased it previously will still be able to use those features. Learn more about the 2019 Autopilot and Full Self-Driving options here.
Full Self-Driving Features
Full Self-Driving has more advanced assisted and semi-autonomous driving capabilities than found in the basic Autopilot package.
A Brief History…
Full Self-Driving was a feature long-promised from Tesla since Autopilot was originally introduced years ago. Initially the notion was that Autopilot features would provide more of the ‘assisted driving’ features such as TACC, automatic steering, summon, etc. whereas Full Self-Driving would provide ‘autonomous’ driving capabilities, similar to Waymo (Google’s self-driving taxis).
However, it soon became clear that true autonomous driving would be years off, so Tesla changed the lineup so that Autopilot is now a basic set of assisted driving features and ‘Full Self-Driving’ has more advanced capabilities.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s currently in Full Self-Driving:
Navigate On Autopilot
This is a “beta” feature that truely hints towards autonomous driving capabilities of the future. It allows the vehicle to fully navigate itself on ‘closed-access’ freeways or highways (meaning those that have on-ramps and off-ramps and no cross-traffic intersections). Once you enter a destination into the navigation system and engage Autosteer, you’ll have the option to press the “Navigate on Autopilot” button. This will then follow the optimal path on the freeway, automatically changing lanes (with driver confirmation currently) and navigating freeway interchanges as needed.
It’s considered fully automated “on-ramp” to “off-ramp” technology and is quite amazing and unlike anything else available for consumer use. It will even automatically suggest changing to faster lanes if it finds traffic moving more quickly in adjacent lanes.
The Autopark feature allows the vehicle to automatically park itself in both parallel and perpendicular spots. While many auto manufacturers offer something similar, Tesla’s version handles all the steering acceleration and braking, making it truly hands-off.
Summon (and Advanced Summon)
One of the most unique features offered by Tesla is the Summon function. It allows you to remotely summon the vehicle out of tight parking or garage spaces, for example.
Currently, it only allows you to summon in a straight line, but in the future “Advanced Summon” will roll out allowing the vehicle to navigate more complex routes, even summon to you in private parking lots, for example.
Future Full Self-Driving Capabilities
Tesla has promised a couple other Full Self-Driving features that will likely be deployed in late 2019 or early next year. These include:
- Traffic light and stop sign detection, plus the ability to respond to them appropriately
- Automatic driving on city streets
What those mean exactly is still to be determined, but it will be exciting to see these new capabilities rolled out, especially with Hardware 3 coming soon.
What to learn more about current Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features? Then check out our article that goes into details on Tesla Autopilot and Full Self-Driving.