Tesla autopilot is one of the most advanced features to be added to cars in the last few years. But that doesn’t exempt it from having a few issues with how well it works. For example, extreme weather conditions, such as snow, can cause the autopilot feature to malfunction and make it unsafe.
If you are driving on a road that is either fully plowed or only has a few inches of snow, then autopilot will still work fine. However, if you’re driving on a very snowy road that also has a lot of ice, autopilot won’t be able to register it as a normal road, which makes it harder to drive safely.
The following article is a more in-depth explanation of how well Tesla autopilot works in snow. It also discusses some new features built for the cold and includes a few tips on driving Tesla autopilot safely in the snow.
Is Driving Tesla Autopilot in Snow Dangerous?
Teslas are suitable to drive in snow when they are on manual, but driving them in snow on autopilot isn’t advised. The main issue is the autopilot steering.
When the Tesla starts driving on icy or slippery roads, the steering mechanism takes more time to fully start up. It has trouble registering the fact that the car is now on the road since there’s less traction. When it does manage to start up, it’s still more of a driving aid than a full autopilot function. It can help the driver to avoid obstacles and stay in the right lane, but it can’t fully drive the car by itself.
The driver should also be very cautious of the car skidding or sliding along the road. Turning the wheel in the opposite direction of the skid will correct the car, but the driver must act fast. If the car starts to slide, the wheel won’t be able to straighten out again on autopilot. Essentially, driving in the snow on autopilot is possible, but should be avoided as much as possible.
Do the Autopilot Cameras Still Work in Snow?
The Tesla autopilot cameras are also able to work in snow. But the driver shouldn’t rely on them as their main source of safety when driving in extreme weather conditions. How well Tesla autopilot cameras work in snow mainly depends on how heavy the snowfall is.
If the snowfall is light or there isn’t any snowfall at all, the cameras can function normally. An image can still be seen on them, though it might be a bit blurry if there’s some light snow falling. The driver should still be cautious of their surroundings to avoid any obstacles or accidents.
If the snowfall is very heavy, then the cameras won’t work as well, and they might not even work at all. Heavy snowfall makes it much harder for the camera to get a clear image of the car’s surroundings, resulting in a decreased ability to stop the car if there’s an object in front of or behind it. Extremely low temperatures can also cause the cameras’ batteries to malfunction, resulting in no image appearing.
If the weather permits, Tesla autopilot cameras can still work, just not as well as usual. The driver should be more aware of their surroundings when driving in snow in case the cameras aren’t functioning properly.
Do Any Tesla Models Have Measures to Protect Against Snow?
As more recent Tesla models have been coming out, the motor company has been installing more measures to increase the safety and efficiency of their autopilot system. These new technological advances include the camera defroster and the sensor heater.
Tesla Camera Defroster
The Tesla camera defroster does exactly what the name suggests and defrosts any snow that is on the camera in a very short amount of time. It’s installed on every Tesla model from Model Y to Model S.
When the defroster is turned on, it starts to melt any snow that has fallen on the camera. It also dries up any water that’s left behind, making the camera image much clearer than on past Tesla models. The camera defroster even works when the Tesla car is stationary, ensuring the camera will work properly whenever you need it.
The main downside is that the camera defroster can kill the battery if it’s used too much. But it takes a significant amount of time for the camera defroster to kill the battery. If you live somewhere that doesn’t get much snow or extremely cold weather. Then you don’t have to worry about the defroster draining the battery nearly as much.
Tesla Sensor Heater
This new feature focuses on warming up the rest of the autopilot functions throughout the rest of the Tesla. Autopilot relies on radar to determine if there’s any obstacles in front of or behind it. This sensor heater will help regulate the radar’s temperature so it can see what’s around it and work properly.
The sensor heater can sense if the radar system is getting too cold or if there’s too much snow on it. Once the sensor picks up on it, it starts to slowly heat up and melt the snow that’s blocking the radar system. It also dries up any water that’s left behind and helps regulate the autopilot function’s temperature.
Similar to the camera defroster, the sensor heater can work while the car is driving or when the car is stationary. It does still drain the battery a bit, but it still takes a significant amount of time to kill the battery.
Tips to Drive Tesla Autopilot Safely in Snow
Even though Tesla models are starting to become safer to drive in snow, being prepared can help lessen the chances of a cold weather-related accident happening.
The day before you leave for your trip, you should make sure your Tesla is all ready to go for the snowy journey. In addition to defrosting the autopilot cameras and the radar system, you also want to make sure there isn’t any snow or ice on other key areas of the car. Some areas that you should clear include:
- Mirrors and windows
- The door handles
- The charge port
As far as your tires go, they should have good traction to prevent any slipping or sliding along the road. Tesla has tires that are specifically designed for winter driving that you can purchase, but you can also use tire chains for some additional traction.
Once you’re on the road, just make sure to drive safely and slowly until you reach your destination. Tesla autopilot can be very helpful, but the driver shouldn’t fully rely on it to keep them safe in extreme weather conditions.
If the snow is falling very hard or the roads aren’t fully plowed, then it might be best to not drive at all. Even though Teslas are capable of driving on autopilot in snowy conditions, extremely high snowfall and icy roads can still be very dangerous. Even the most technology advanced Tesla models can come up short when driving in harsh weather conditions, and it’s much better to be cautious when dealing with dangerous driving conditions.
The Tesla autopilot feature proves to be a very useful advantage when driving, but it still has its shortcomings and places where it can improve. The added heating and defrosting features on recent Tesla models are a step in the right direction, but it’s ultimately up to the driver to be safe in harsh weather conditions.