Buyer’s Guide Tesla Autopilot or Not?

Buyer’s Guide Tesla Autopilot or Not?

If you are thinking of buying a Tesla, you may be wondering if Tesla Autopilot is worth it or not.  Is Autopilot included with all of Tesla vehicles? Is there a difference between Autopilot and self-driving? We are here to investigate whether Tesla Autopilot is something you want.

Tesla Autopilot is standard on all Tesla vehicles. Consumers can upgrade to FSD: Full Self-Driving for an added fee. Tesla is continuously monitoring and adjusting its Autopilot and FSD functions to make its vehicles the safest while striving for truly autonomous vehicles. For most buyers, the standard included Autopilot is sufficient.

All Tesla cars are equipped with Autopilot; for more functions, you can buy Tesla FSD, but it is expensive. Is it worth the money? Let’s research this topic in more depth.

Buyer’s Guide Tesla Autopilot or Not?

Tesla Autopilot has been standard on its vehicles since 2016. Being the leader of driver-assist vehicles, the company is also continuously changing and upgrading its system. In less than a year, three major changes have occurred with the Tesla Autopilot.

Last year, in October 2020, Tesla unveiled its 4D Radar Technology. However, after a serious and fatal accident happened in Texas and a slump in Tesla’s safety ratings, Tesla announced in May 2021 they will no longer be using radar sensors.

Instead, they will be relying on a camera system called Tesla Vision. Shortly after this announcement, Tesla revealed it would be offering its Autopilot program with a monthly subscription option.

Can Tesla Autopilot Be Added Later?

Autopilot is a standard feature of Tesla cars. For vehicles made after 2016, Autopilot upgrades can be purchased through the Tesla account at any time. Tesla cars made between 2014 and 2016 cannot be retrofitted for the latest Autopilot software.

To find out what type of Autopilot your Tesla is equipped with, use your touchscreen to check the configurations. Do this by selecting:

  • Controles
  • Software
  • Confirm Autopilot type
  • Additional information

This will tell you what system your Autopilot is.

How is Tesla’s Autopilot Changing?

Tesla is overhauling its Autopilot on the Model 3 and Model Y cars in the US and Canada by removing the radar system. The cars will rely on cameras and neural net processing instead. This will affect vehicles made after 2019.

CNBC states that radar is expensive and requires a lot of computing. Elon Musk believes cameras are all that are needed for autonomous driving vehicles. As Tesla switches to Tesla Vision, the Autopilot system may have limited or inactive features for a while.

These inactive and limited features include:

  • Limited Autosteer- Autosteer will only be available up to speeds of 80 mph. It will also require a greater distance between the vehicle ahead of you.
  • Smart Summon– may be limited or inactive on new model 3 and model Y Tesla cars. Smart summons assists with parking and can be used to call your car to you over short distances.
  • Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance– might be inactive as well. This feature keeps your Tesla in its lane if it notices drifting or a possible collision course with another vehicle.

Tesla reminds us that these inactive and limited features will only be temporary, and “Full Self-Driving,” also known as FSD, will be available at delivery for those who have paid for it.

What is the Difference Between Autopilot and FSD?

Autopilot is like advanced cruise control with active safety features that assist the driver while maneuvering through traffic. Full Self-Driving has added features that enhance Tesla’s Autopilot.

Autopilot is included on all Tesla cars. Full Self-Driving can be included for an added fee. The following features are included with Autopilot:

  • AEB- or Automatic emergency braking to help prevent collisions
  • FCW- Forward collision warning detects objects in front of the car
  • SCW- Side collision warning helps detect possible impacts from the sides of the vehicle
  • OAA- Obstacle-aware acceleration will decrease the speed of the car if it detects a slow or stationary object in front of you.
  • Blindspot monitoring- will alert you when a car or other object is next to you when you signal a lane change.
  • Lane departure avoidance- helps keep your car between the lines of the lane you are in.
  • Emergency lane departure avoidance- kicks in when it senses your vehicle leaving its lane and is on a potential collision course with another vehicle or leaving the pavement.

All the above features are included in all cars made after 2014. If you opt for Full Self-Driving, you will still have the above features plus:

  • Navigate- allows you to set a destination. Your Tesla will find the best route and navigate on and off-ramps, lane changes, and interchanges. It will engage the turn signal when necessary as well.
  • ALC- Auto Lane Change is used in conjunction with Autosteer and helps the driver while switching lanes during highway driving.
  • Auto Park- will parallel park your vehicle with the touch of a button.
  • Summon- allows you to use your app or key to move your car out of a tight parking situation.
  • Smart Summon- will bring your car to you from a parked location. It will be able to drive to your location in a parking lot.
  • Traffic Stop- detects traffic lights and stop signs. This feature will tell you of upcoming traffic signals and intersections where you may need to stop.

It states that your car will begin to slow down at the light even if the light is green. You need to be fully engaged with your car at all times and be prepared to take over when needed.

  • Autosteer- ensures you are holding on to the steering wheel while driving by sensing the weight and grip you apply. If your car is not sensing your hands on the steering wheel, it will alert you. If it happens often, it will prevent you from engaging Autosteer.

It is important to note that Tesla will be implementing cameras to detect the driver’s engagement. This comes after the realization that many people have blatantly ignored the promise to stay engaged with their vehicles at all times.

People have been able to trick the car into believing they are holding on to the steering wheel. By using cameras, the Autopilot and FSD features will see that the driver is paying attention to their car and surrounding traffic.

Does Tesla Work Without Autopilot?

Tesla works without Autopilot. If you wish to engage Autopilot, you must do so yourself. You are in control of your vehicle. Autopilot is there to assist the driver and can be engaged or disengaged by the driver while traveling.

CF Tesla explains how to use Autopilot in your car. Turning on Autopilot is simple. However, you do need to memorize a few steps.

There is a lever at about three o’clock on your steering column. To engage Autopilot gently pull it down one click to put your car in adaptive cruise control, also known as Traffic-Aware cruise control on the Tesla. Traffic Aware makes it so your Tesla will stop and then bring you back to speed when it is safe to go without driver input.

When you pull the lever twice, it will activate Autopilot and auto-steer. If you already have your Tesla in traffic-aware mode, you will only need to click the lever once. CF tells us that you can switch back to traffic-aware mode while driving at highway speeds, just by clicking the lever one time.

This will tell you how fast you are traveling. You will be reminded that you need to steer the vehicle if it detects your hands are not on the steering wheel or that the car is drifting. To re-engage Autosteer and Autopilot, you just click it twice again.

The screen will show two blue lines indicating it is tracking the lane you are in. This will keep your car tracking in the center of the lane but will not switch lanes or anything else. You will need to be engaged with your car.

To get your car out of Autopilot, you can tap on the brake or push the lever all the way up and this will disengage the Autopilot. You can also disengage Autopilot and Autosteer by forcefully taking the wheel and turning it, which may be needed in some circumstances to avoid a collision.

Do Tesla’s Actually Drive Themselves?

Though Tesla is striving for autonomous vehicles, they are not yet capable of driving themselves. The driver must be interacting with their Tesla at all times and remain aware of the environment outside of their vehicle. Tesla hopes to have true autonomous cars in the near future.

For the time being, there are no vehicles from any manufacturer that are considered self-driving. Tesla is in the lead with advancing their vehicles to make them autonomous.

The technology is still being worked on to provide the absolute safest vehicle that can perform without human intervention. It will also be a while before the laws of the roadway catch up to this technology.

Though there are some people such as Param Sharma, that have been caught tricking the Tesla into believing the car has an alert and aware human driver, it is dangerous and risky to be distracted in your vehicle.

You are considered responsible for your vehicle at all times. Should an accident occur, and it could have been avoided with human interaction, that is not something anyone needs on their conscience.

If you are caught allowing your vehicle to operate completely of  its own accord, you may face:

  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • Your car may be impounded
  • Your license may be taken away.

Tesla has you sign a promise that you will remain in control of your vehicle at all times. Autopilot and FSD are useful tools that add some safety to driving when used correctly.

Is Tesla FSD Worth it?

FSD is expensive and may not be worth the purchase at this time. Tesla owners who purchase Full Self-Driving will need to pay $10,000. This purchase will not follow the driver to their next Tesla purchase.

To make the idea of FSD more appealing, Tesla will begin offering FSD as a monthly subscription for $199, or $99 for those who bought FSD in the past.

When FSD is purchased by a Tesla car owner, it can be upgraded as the technology is enhanced. Musk believes Tesla vehicles should be at a level 5 in autonomous driving by the end of this year.

However, Tesla’s director, CJ Moore, says that Tesla is a long way from being considered a level 5 in autonomy. Currently, Tesla’s FSD is operating at a level 2.

There are six levels of autonomy. These are:

  • Zero- This is where most vehicles on the roadway are at. These cars may have some added features but do not “drive themselves.”
  • One- The car has one added function such as steering or cruise control to assist the driver. A person must be operating the vehicle at all times.
  • Two- The car is equipped with an ADAS, advanced driver assistance system. A car with ADAS will be able to steer, slow down, stop, and accelerate. A person must still be present and ready to take over at a moment’s notice.
  • Three– At this level, the car is able to do most driving tasks on its own, but a person still needs to be ready and aware in order to take over.
  • Four- is considered high automation and the car is capable of driving completely on its own with geofencing. A human occupant is able to take over if wanted.
  • Five- Level five is considered full autonomy of the vehicle. The vehicle is able to perform without a person present. The car will do all of the work, a human occupant would not need to be attentive.

At level 2 FSD does not give the Tesla owner many advantages over the regular Autopilot. However, since Tesla is continuously updating their cars and has more vehicles on the road with Beta Testing than other car companies, they are well on their way to producing the first autonomous vehicle for public use.

What is Tesla Vision?

Tesla Vision eliminates the use of radar and relies on the use of cameras for Autopilot. Tesla vision has been found to be just as good if not better than radar during recent testing. This has brought the Tesla 3 safety ratings back to the top.

There are eight cameras on the cars using Tesla vision, with 12 updated ultrasonic sensors. These help Tesla detect hard and soft surfaces. These cameras will be helpful in navigating both city and highway driving. All new Tesla vehicles will be capable of self-driving in the near future.

Is Tesla Autopilot Safe?

Most consumer reports say that Autopilot is not safer than regular cars, even though Elon Musk has said it makes the Tesla ten times safer than those without it. There have been ten deadly crashes involving Teslas since 2016.

This is a large reason why Tesla dropped the radar from its vehicles as Musk believes that the radars can hinder Autopilot more than help it. Most of the other carmakers that have a self-driving system in place using:

  • Cameras
  • Radar
  • LiDar

Tesla will be relying on the eight-camera system. The cameras scan the surroundings of the car and send the information to the computer system, which analyzes what it sees. Tesla states it has received a 5-star safety rating in the most recent testing. IIHS says that Tesla has rated “superior” for “front crash prevention vehicle to vehicle.” 

Even though ratings and opinions are divided, it is the driver of the vehicle that must ensure the car they are driving is in good condition and safe for the roadways. It is also the driver’s responsibility to be attentive while driving, even in a vehicle that has assisted driver systems.

Will Tesla cars be safer using only cameras? That is something we won’t know for some time. What we do see is that Tesla wants to remain at the top and this includes the safety of their cars. When something is not working to ensure this, Tesla takes steps to change it.

Autopilot and Full Self-Driving is meant to assist drivers at this point. It is not autonomous and cannot be relied on to drive without human intervention. Tesla, like many other car companies, is working on full autonomy vehicles, but until that happens there has to be a person in the driver’s seat.

Tesla Autopilot or Not

Tesla is top-ranked in the electric vehicle companies. All Tesla vehicles come equipped with Autopilot, and consumers can buy Tesla’s Full Self-Driving package or use it for a monthly fee. Tesla claims FSD will become a level five autonomy in the near future, making the cars truly self-driving.

If you are looking for a car that will eventually be able to drive without your intervention, Tesla continues to be in the lead as they strive to bring consumers a truly self-driving car.

Until this goal is reached by Tesla and other car manufacturers and approved by law and safety regulations, all vehicles with driver assistance will require human interaction and attentiveness.


The articles here on are created by Greg, a Tesla vehicle and Tesla solar expert with nearly half a decade of hands-on experience. The information on this site is fact-checked and tested in-person to ensure the best possible level of accuracy.

Recent Posts