Everything You MUST Know about Tesla Autopilot at Night

Everything You MUST Know about Tesla Autopilot at Night

Tesla Autopilot is bringing the future of transportation closer to reality. While it is not completely driverless, Autopilot has innovative features to assist drivers. Autopilot’s advanced technology facilitates motorists’ ability to maneuver their vehicles day and night.

Tesla’s Autopilot at night operates with the same effective assistive driving features as it does during the daytime. Nighttime driving causes a unique set of concerns, but using Autopilot to support your driving at night can improve your driving experience.

Rapidly changing the reality of driving, Tesla’s continually evolving Autopilot can reduce the monotony of some driving tasks. Knowing the features of Tesla’s Autopilot will help you with your future driving decisions. For information on Autopilot and its features, including use at nighttime, read on.

Components of Tesla’s Autopilot Hardware

Tesla’s Autopilot is a complex system. Tesla has had three versions of its driver-assisted systems, so far. Enhanced Autopilot, now just referred to as Autopilot, includes these key components:

  • Cameras
  • Ultrasonic sensors
  • Radar system
  • Onboard computer

These components work in tandem to create a seamless experience for drivers.


Cameras play a key role in Tesla’s Autopilot system. A total of eight cameras provides a 360-degree field of vision and up to 250 meters of range. Cameras search for traffic lights and objects that might obstruct the car. The cameras permit the driver to maintain their lane, accelerate, and brake.

Tesla’s camera system is designed with the thought that human drivers rely 100 percent on their vision. Therefore, all eight cameras were installed to provide a full scan around the car. This gives the driver a much more expansive view.

Ultrasonic Sensors

Twelve ultrasonic sensors complement the cameras. These sense all types of objects regardless of their density. While driving, the sensors are programmed to detect cars approaching either side of your vehicle.

A person’s ability to distinguish contrast between objects, including pedestrians, is more difficult at night due to the low light. Autopilot’s sensors can assist the driver with its ability to identify other cars, people, or objects around the vehicle.

Radar System

Forward-facing radar can view up to 160 meters ahead of the car. Tesla’s radar can see through heavy rain, fog, dust, and the car ahead of it. Radar can pierce through blinding snow or sun more effectively than cameras.

During nighttime driving, the radar continues to perform as it is designed providing the driver increased reaction time.


The onboard computer system uses information from the cameras and sensors to assist the driver. Lane changes, emergency braking, and accident-avoidance technology are all components of Autopilot.

Tesla’s new computers have more than 40 times the computing power than its previous model. The computer assimilates information from cameras looking in all directions, more than a human driver can see. Daytime or nighttime does not affect the onboard computer system’s ability to calculate and monitor the car’s speed and other factors.

Tesla Autopilot Key Features

Key features that assist in nighttime driving include:

  • Autosteer
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Changing lanes

With these features, Autopilot combines safety and convenience for the driver by assisting them in multiple ways.


With autosteer, the Tesla vehicle uses its cameras to track the lanes on the road. A driver can not always detect the lanes on the road at night. Information from the car’s cameras will keep the car centered in its lane.

At night, a person’s range of vision is reduced. If a driver is not familiar with the road they are driving on, it can be a challenge to smoothly and safely adhere to the contours of the road. Autosteer will recognize upcoming curves in the road and adjust speed and steering accordingly. 

Adaptive Cruise Control

Using the radar in the Autopilot hardware, the adaptive cruise control locks on to the vehicle in front of the Tesla. Then the system matches the Tesla’s speed to the car in front of it. The Tesla will speed up and slow down to match surrounding traffic.

Reduced reaction time is a concern with driving at night. Tesla’s adaptive cruise control offers motorists another tool to create a safer nighttime driving experience.

Changing Lanes

With all Autopilot features, the driver is still necessary. The auto lane changer needs a signal from the driver that they want or need to change lanes. Once the Tesla receives the signal that indicates what lane is desired, the auto lane changer will move the car over when it is safe.

Tesla Autopilot and Nighttime Driving

About 50 percent of all automobile accidents occur at night. However, only 25 percent of driving happens at night. More pedestrians, who die from car accidents, are killed at night than from daytime accidents. Key areas causing drivers’ concern at night are:

  • Low light
  • Glare
  • Reaction time
  • Aging eyes

Concerns such as depth perception, field of vision, and the blinding glare from oncoming car lights occur for all drivers at night. Some of the features of Tesla’s Autopilot can assist drivers at night and offset night driving issues. Autopilot’s camera and ultrasonic sensors can support drivers at night.

Low light

Darkness reduces the contrast between objects. This creates a challenge for drivers to accurately judge distances. It is more difficult to estimate other drivers’ speed. Autopilot’s adaptive cruise control is one tool that can offset the challenge of driving at night.


Nighttime glare is caused by bright lights. Adjusting to bright lights from oncoming headlights makes drivers squint, so their eyes can adapt to the light. This takes time and reduces the ability to see. Autopilot’s system of cameras and its radar can assist the driver by noticing upcoming curves.

Reaction Time

Reduced visibility increases reaction time. At night a driver’s vision is limited. Depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision are all diminished. All of these are components of a person’s reaction time. The full suite of Autopilot’s hardware and software work seamlessly to enhance a driver’s decision-making ability.

Aging Eyes

Safety concerns with nighttime driving are increasing, especially in areas with an aging population. A person’s vision is the most important component of their reaction as a driver. Ninety percent of driving decisions are made based on what a driver can see. Darkness reduces the field of vision for drivers of any age.

Weakening eye muscles and decreased pupil size as people age result in the need for more light to see. Therefore, aging drivers have more difficulty seeing at night. Autopilot’s 360-degree field of vision enables all drivers to visualize their surroundings more clearly.

Tesla Autopilot and Safety

While Autopilot has an incredible repertoire of hardware and software, these are driver-assist functions. Much of the routine work of driving can be accomplished with Autopilot. However, Autopilot is not synonymous with a self-driving car. It is a driving aid.

Feature designs of Autopilot are to advance safety. It is intended to reduce the tedious parts of driving. Some of the monotonous parts of driving are more evident at night when vision can be impaired and fatigue can be a challenge.

Tesla has added safety checks on the driver:

  • If you do not have your hands on the wheel, Autopilot will alert you.
  • If warnings are ignored, the car will sound an alarm and take over.
  • At this point, it slows the car down and turns on hazard lights bringing the car to the side of the road. Autopilot will be disabled for the rest of the trip.

Drivers cannot knit, pay bills, or watch the latest Netflix show. Drivers must remain in control of the car and let the car know they are still there and in charge, day or night.   

In Conclusion

Tesla gathers data continually seeking to improve. New generations of Autopilot continually create a safer driving system. Autopilot helps drivers at all times of day, but especially at night when driving can become increasingly dangerous. Self-driving cars are closer to reality with Tesla leading the way.

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The articles here on ThatTeslaChannel.com 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.

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