Tesla Autopilot is Here but Can it Be Released to the world?


Tesla Autopilot is Here but Can it Be Released to the world?

While it might seem to be the stuff of science fiction, the once dreamed about self-driving cars are about to take the market by storm. Before we get ahead of ourselves, it is important to examine the Tesla Autopilot. As the leader in the field, the Autopilot system developed by Tesla has been here for the better part of a decade. The question is whether or not the world is ready to embrace it. 

Tesla Autopilot cannot quite yet be released to the world. The technology is on all new Tesla’s and is ready to fully be activated as soon as more testing is complete and government regulations permit the self-driving features. Until that day, all features must still be operated with a licensed driver in the car.

With so many different regulations in place today, it is hard to envision the robotic taxis will be here anytime soon. With Tesla about to unveil is Autopilot 3.0, it seems that the time is right for the world’s first fully self-driven vehicle to hit the streets. Before we can answer this definitively, continue reading to learn more about the AutoPilot system and if it is ready to be released to the world.

Is Tesla Autopilot Ready for the World

In order to get to the point where all of the features on the Tesla Autopilot can be used as intended, resulting in a fully self-driven vehicle, literally billions of hours of testing are required. This is necessary in order to demonstrate that the self-driven vehicle is far superior in terms of safety than one operated by a human driver. 

Once that can be done, there is still regulatory approval that must be granted. Some jurisdictions around the world are closer to granting that than others. In essence, we do not when the world is truly ready for the release of the Tesla Autopilot, but it is available now for when that day comes.

The Tesla Autopilot Defined

Before you can fully identify whether or not the world is ready for the Tesla Autopilot, it is first essential to understand exactly what this system is designed to do. Tesla vehicles have long had some type of either self-driving or autonomous capability built into their DNA. The combination of these features is known as the Autopilot.

At the current time, it is not possible to have a Tesla drive itself without a qualified driver in the vehicle at all times. This is a feature of government regulation and the fact that more testing likely needs to be conducted. However, the Autopilot system is ready to go, and all features currently in place can be used with a driver in the car.

The features on the Autopilot are only designed to be used if a fully qualified and capable driver is behind that wheel. The system itself is optional and does not have to be deployed for the vehicle to work. There is little denying that the Tesla Autopilot is a potential game-changer when it comes to safely navigate the streets of the world.

It is important to note that, while all Tesla vehicles now come equipped with all of the Autopilot hardware, owners still have to pay to deploy its use. Tesla owners can do this by purchasing one of two distinct packages:

  • The Autopilot Package
  • The Fully Self-Driving Package

These are purchased directly through Tesla. If you are wondering what the features on the Tesla Autopilot allows you to do, it can best be summarized as automatically doing the following for drivers:

  • Steer
  • Brake
  • Accelerate

Each of these three features takes place within the lane that the vehicle is driving in. It needs to be mentioned that Autopilot currently requires a driver to be supervising it at all times. As such, it is not quite fully autonomous yet.

However, the self-driving features developed by Tesla continue to evolve, and the time is coming for the possibility of the car driving itself to be opened up. Tesla now regularly updates its Autopilot and pushes those through to its car automatically through software upgrades.

Which Vehicles Make Use of Autopilot?

Tesla has included its Autopilot system on all vehicles it has manufactured dating back to 2016. This is made possible via a hardware feature that has been made standard. All a Tesla owner has to do is enable the Autopilot system by paying for and activating a software upgrade.

When Autopilot is engaged, drivers can instantly activate the following features:

  • 360-degree angle cameras – There are eight of them. 
  • Ultrasonic sensors – There are twelve of them. 
  • A forward-facing radar – This is a game-changer in terms of spotting obstacles in front of the vehicle.
  • Vision processing tools – These use the various resources built into the Autopilot to determine how best to accelerate or brake depending on traffic flow.
  • An onboard computer – This is the control panel that the driver can use to ensure that everything is activated and working properly. 

In essence, the Tesla autopilot can see everywhere, in any direction imaginable. Whereas humans will always have certain blind spots that they need to consider when driving, there is no such concern with the Autopilot.

In addition, humans can see in only one direction at a time. The Tesla Autopilot is able to visualize all angles at the same time. This is a safety enhancement that will bring enormous dividends, particularly in high traffic areas. Finally, the Autopilot also powers all of the self-driving features that are now built into every Tesla model sold in the marketplace today. 

The Cost of Autopilot

Now that Autopilot is fully tested and available on all Tesla models sold around the world, the cost is a major determinant if it will be released to the world. 

Following are the current estimated costs of the Tesla Autopilot sold in the United States:

  • Autopilot Only – $2,000 (comes standard in all Tesla’s)
  • Autopilot with Full Self-Driving Capability – $10,000

It is the latter that is not fully available to the world at this point. While Tesla may be capable of driving itself, current regulations in all markets that the car is sold prevent it from doing so unless a licensed driver is in the seat. That begs the question of whether or not the world is truly ready for its pending release.

The Two Main Autopilot Packages Available Today

As mentioned, there are two main Autopilot packages that one must consider when purchasing a Tesla. Here are the main features associated with each. 

Autopilot Only

When purchasing the Autopilot package, Tesla owners will gain the following features: 

  • Traffic-Aware Cruise Control – The system will automatically brake and accelerate depending on the traffic flow you are currently experiencing. 
  • Autosteer – The system will assist you in steering by gently nudging your vehicle if it starts to sway outside of its current lane. 

As described here, these features do not allow for self-driving capability. They are widely available now, so they are open to the world. They are the same type of features that many other types of vehicles have included as a part of their safety package. However, Tesla’s Autopilot integrates them and is considered to be the best on the market today.

Autopilot with Full Self-Driving Capability

Upgrading to the Autopilot system that comes with full self-driving capability will provide you with the following features. 

  • Navigation with Autopilot Engaged – This is still currently in Beta, but it has great potential. It is designed to help a Tesla get from the on-ramp successfully to the off-ramp. It will also suggest lane changes along the way, navigating highway interchanges, switch on the turn signal automatically when applicable, and exit the highway.
  • Change Lanes Automatically – This works in conjunction with the autosteer feature included with Autopilot. It will move the vehicle to the next lane on the highway when there are no other vehicles or obstacles in the way. 
  • Park Automatically – With just a single touch of the display screen, Autopilot will either parallel or perpendicular park the vehicle. 
  • Summon the Vehicle – If the Tesla is in a tight spot and you need to move it, this feature will do that for you without you needing to get in the driver’s seat. 
  • A Smart Summon Feature – This is an advanced summons feature where the vehicle will drive through a parking lot or area filled with obstacles until it locates where you happen to be.
  • Stop and Go in Traffic – This is another Autopilot feature that is still being Beta tested. It will identify upcoming stop signs and traffic lights. When it does, the vehicle will slow down when necessary as you begin to approach. You must be supervising the Tesla for this feature to work.

These features are now widely available but can only be used when a licensed driver in the driver’s seat. 

Buying the Tesla Autopilot

Now that the Autopilot is here, it is quite easy to purchase and engage on any 2016 or greater model Tesla. You will use your online Tesla account to purchase the Autopilot package of your choice. It will then be turned on automatically and ready for you to make use of almost immediately.

The Keys to Using Autopilot

As the world looks toward eventual acceptance of the Tesla Autopilot, it is first important to understand how to operate it. Part of the hesitancy towards many people accepting a self-driving vehicle is a reluctance to trust technology to do something that humans have had a monopoly on for the better part of a century. 

Enabling the Autopilot Feature

When an owner first purchases an Autopilot package, we should point out that many of the features are disabled right from the beginning. These include:

  • Autosteer
  • Navigate while on Autopilot
  • Summon

In order to get these features activated, the driver will need to go into the control settings on the Autopilot display to activate them. When doing so, the driver must agree to keep his or her hands on the steering wheel at all times. A disclaimer is also given that the driver must maintain control and responsibility over the vehicle. 

What Does Full Self-Driving Capability Mean?

If you are wondering if cars can drive themselves, the answer is yes. The technology is here already. This is not the stuff of science fiction, as Tesla has now included the very features and design upgrades needed to provide the full self-driving capability. What does this mean exactly?

Full self-driving capability means that the car can travel both short and long distances without any action being taken on the part of the driver. In essence, you will just get in your Tesla, tell it where you want to go, and then the journey will begin.

The future will also have your Tesla taking you where you need to go without you even telling it anything. This will be based on your calendar. If you have an appointment with your family dentist at 2 pm and you get in the car at 1:30, you will be taken directly there. This is where the future is headed, but with the Tesla Autopilot, it is already here. 

What Can Your Tesla Do?

Humans cannot see traffic patterns, but your Tesla Autopilot can. When you give it a route to take, it will automatically determine the fastest and best way to get there. This will help you to avoid unnecessary delays due to traffic. The car will even allow you to navigate tricky streets that do not even have lane markings. You will be much safer as a result.

The Tesla Autopilot now makes it possible for you to manage complex intersections without you having to do anything. The vehicle will sense when you need to stop at a stop sign and then begin accelerating again when it is safe to do so. This considers other drivers on the road who may post a problem because they are not safely operating their vehicles.

The Traffic-Aware Cruise Control Feature

Using the Traffic-Aware Cruise Control feature is actually quite easy. On the Tesla Model S and Model X, the driver will just need to press down on the cruise control stalk. This is located on the left side of the steering column. It only needs to be pulled down once. 

The feature is activated differently on the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y. If you have one of those vehicles, you will press down once on the gear selector stalk. This is actually located on the right side of the steering column. 

The Autopilot Autosteer Feature

Instead of pulling once on the cruise control stalk located on the steering column, you will pull twice to engage the Autosteer feature on the Tesla Model S and Model X. For the Model 3 and Model Y, you will once again pull twice on the gear selector stalk that is located to the right of the steering column.

When the Autosteer feature is available, you will see a steering wheel appear on the display screen. If you have engaged the feature, this icon will change to a blue color.

Navigating with Autopilot

This is a feature that most Tesla drivers look forward to having the most. In order to gain access to it, you will first need to enable Autosteer. Once you have done that, you can continue on to enable the Navigate feature on Autopilot. 

The first thing that needs to happen is that cameras will need to be calibrated. You will also need to have the most recent version of the Navigation maps installed into the system. This can be done via a download while connected to Wi-Fi. 

If a route is available on Autopilot, the driver needs to press the Navigate on Autopilot button. This is located in the Navigation Turn List. You will find that you can use this feature on the Model 3 and Model Y on just about any highway when you move the gear level down twice. For the Model S and Model X, you pull the cruise stalk towards the driver twice. 

Changing Lanes Automatically

Again, the driver must be in control at all times, so you will need to be the one to enable the Auto Lane Changes feature. This is done via the Control Panel on the Autopilot. If you are in Autosteer mode, you must first turn on the turn indicator to automatically change lanes.

Using the Autopark Feature

To use this useful feature on the Tesla Autopilot, you will first need to see a grey ‘P’ icon appear on the instrument panel. This means that your vehicle notices an available parking spot that it can maneuver into. 

To then use the Autopark feature, you will need to press on the brake and shift your gear selector into the Reverse position. All the while, make sure that you keep your foot on the brake. You will then notice Start Autopark show up as a blue text box on your screen. Press it and the feature will be activated.

It is important to note that the Autopark can be overridden at any time when the driver takes over control of the steering wheel. 

Using the Summon Feature

The summon feature can be opened via the Tesla application. You will just press the Summon button and then can tell the car to go either forward or in reverse. 

If you have a Tesla Model S or Model X, you can engage the Summon feature directly from your key fob. To do that, you just hold the center button on the fob for three seconds. At that point, the hazard lights will come on. When that happens, push the trunk button to go forward or the trunk button to go in reverse. Autopilot makes it easy. 

The Smart Summon Feature is a Bit Different

The Smart Summon feature is only to be used in a private parking lot or a driveway. With that in mind, Autopilot will allow you to drive your Tesla to the location that you choose remotely. 

When you are ready to use the Smart Summon feature, you will once again open your Tesla application. Again, tap the Summon icon and then look for and press the Smart Summon icon. You will then need to press and hold down the Come to Me button. Alternatively, you can tape a target icon and then set the destination where you want your vehicle to go and then press down on the Go to Target button. 

Using the Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control Feature

This feature on Autopilot will allow the vehicle to sense both stop signs and traffic lights that are in the immediate vicinity. Upon approach, the vehicle will automatically begin to slow when appropriate. 

To ensure that this feature is activated while driving, you will need to first shift your car into Park. Once there, tap the Controls feature to get the Autopilot. Select the Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control feature. You will also need to engage either Traffic-Aware Cruise Control or Autosteer. Keep in mind that this feature on Autopilot is still in Beta. 

The Future of Tesla’s Autopilot

Now that you understand the features of the Tesla Autopilot, it is time to delve a bit more into its functionality. The Autopilot is here and available now. Even the full self-driving capability is present in all Tesla models at the current time. However, those features cannot be fully activated at this time. The functionality should only improve over time. 

Check Out the Advanced Sensor Coverage

Tesla’s Autopilot has one of the most advanced sensor systems ever designed for a vehicle. There are a total of eight cameras that surround each Tesla vehicle. These cameras combine to give a complete 360-degree view of the area that surrounds the car. What is impressive about this is that the sensors can identify objects and obstacles 250 meters away.

In addition to the eight cameras, the Tesla Autopilot also has 12 ultrasonic sensors that have been completely updated. These work in conjunction with the cameras to allow the system to spot both hard and soft tangible objects that could be a potential problem. It does this at a distance that is more than twice the distance previously included with such systems. 

Finally, there is also a forward-facing radar system included with the new Tesla Autopilot. This changes the way a vehicle can anticipate potential hazards, particularly in inclement weather. The system will analyze data from the radar to determine what is up ahead even when the naked eye cannot see due to rain, fog, dust, or other vehicles that are in the way.

Here is a summary of what the world can expect when it embraces the fully self-driven capabilities of the Tesla Autopilot. 

  • Rearward Looking Side Cameras – These can see up to a maximum distance of 100 meters. 
  • Wide Forward Camera – Analyzes images up to a distance of 60 meters. 
  • Main Forward Camera – Has a maximum range of 150 meters. 
  • Narrow Forward Camera – This one camera can clearly see up to a distance of an impressive 250 meters. 
  • Rear View Camera – With this Autopilot feature, you can see to a distance of 50 meters behind you. 
  • Ultrasonics – This will spot hazards all around the car to a distance of 8 meters. 
  • Forward Looking Side Cameras – These will see in front of the vehicle at a distance of 80 meters. 
  • Radar – This system can analyze data up to 160 meters away. 

All of the cameras and radars combine to create an Autopilot system that is truly state of the art and ahead of its time. While drivers still must currently retain control over the vehicle, these systems provide so much assistance that it leaves one to wonder who is actually doing the driving anyway. 

Tesla Autopilot Processes Data Quickly

In order for a vehicle to be self-driven, data must be received and analyzed in a fraction of a second. There is no room for error. This is why the new Tesla Autopilot now has a newly designed computer that is capable of analyzing the volumes of data it receives at a rate that is 40 times more than earlier generations. That should begin to wake up the world to the potential of this technology. 

Tesla developed the software that Autopilot uses to make sense of this data. They created the neural net system to enhance vision, along with sonar and radar to sense potential hazards. These systems combine to create an experience that no human could ever hope to replicate. The safety implications are enormous as self-driven cars have the potential to be many times safer than human driven vehicles.

Tesla Autopilot Enhances Safety

Autopilot is not just about a bunch of features that are designed merely for cosmetic purposes. These are features that are designed to help drivers avoid accidents and arrive safely at their destination with every journey. Since technology continues to evolve, Autopilot has been built to be upgraded. 

Over time, Autopilot will continue to add new features that make use of the existing technology. These will be sent automatically to each Tesla in operation today. That makes safety the primary approach of any Tesla vehicle. 

Autopilot will allow any Tesla to steer, accelerate, and brake within its current lane. It does this automatically. While these features currently require a driver to actively supervise its operation, the hope is that this will change shortly.

Testing and Easing of Regulations is Key

In order to get to the point where all of the features on the Tesla Autopilot can be used as intended, resulting in a fully self-driven vehicle, literally billions of hours of testing are required. This is necessary in order to demonstrate that the self-driven vehicle is far superior in terms of safety than one operated by a human driver. 

Once that can be done, there is still regulatory approval that must be granted. Some jurisdictions around the world are closer to granting that than others. In essence, we do not when the world will truly be ready for the release of the Tesla Autopilot, but it is available now for when that day comes.

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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