Tesla Autopilot Versus Full Self-Driving Compared

Tesla Autopilot Versus Full Self-Driving Compared

Tesla has pioneered many new innovations in the field of electric vehicle technology. Cars are among their most notable technological innovations. Tesla has become well known for their Autopilot and self-driving features installed in their new car models. Some consumers may be curious, however, as to what separates the two systems.

There are key differences between Autopilot and full self-driving. The issue with these two categories is they also intersect in some areas, making them hard to distinguish. Autopilot is both a general term and specific feature, while full self driving is a special add-on feature.

Comparing Tesla’s Autopilot and full self-driving requires understanding what sets both features apart and what makes them similar. To effectively compare the two, one must understand the nitty gritty of these features. The more you know the two features, the better informed you will be on how they work. Keep reading to learn about how Tesla Autopilot and full-self driving compare.

Tesla Autopilot Versus Full Self-Driving

Both systems seem to accomplish similar things. Even the terms like “Autopilot” and “full self-driving” seem redundant. There are key differences between the two features, however.

The primary issues with autopilot and full self-driving are more in the various details of the two features. There are key distinctions to pay attention to. In general, these are what to consider in distinguishing the two:

  • Autopilot the feature vs. Autopilot the umbrella term
  • Pre-installation

These factors are ultimately what sets the two features apart. While they do perform similar tasks, they are entirely different from each other. These differences add up when considering the two features together.

Tesla’s Autopilot Umbrella vs. Autopilot Feature

One of the more confusing aspects of Tesla’s Autopilot feature is that the term “Autopilot” is also used as the umbrella encompassing Tesla’s entire automated driving program. You may be confused by the term and its interchangeability. When discussing Autopilot in Tesla terms, it is important to distinguish between the specific feature and the overall umbrella term.

  • Autopilot is a specific vehicle feature that comes pre-installed onto new Tesla vehicles. This feature offers the basic functions of traffic aware cruise control and autosteer
  • Autopilot is also the overall umbrella term used to describe all of Tesla’s automated driving programs. Full self-driving mode is a component of Tesla’s Autopilot umbrella, for example

The Autopilot feature is a pre-installed program on new Tesla models. It does not require any extra payment or installation to receive. Autopilot can also be installed onto older Tesla models. Autopilot, in general, is the base automated feature on new Tesla vehicles.

Tesla’s Autopilot umbrella, as mentioned, incorporates many programs. When discussing Autopilot for Tesla models, it is good to be aware of the distinction between the base vehicle feature and the overall umbrella.

Pre-Installation and Tesla’s Full Self-Driving

As mentioned, Autopilot is a base feature installed on all new Tesla models. It is included with the price of the vehicle. Full self-driving, however, is an addition to the base feature. Full self-driving mode does not come pre-installed on new Tesla models, it must be purchased as an added package.

What are the costs associated with full self-driving mode? Since full self-driving mode is not pre-installed, it will cost the consumer extra to attain it.

  • Full self-driving mode software costs around $7,000 when added to the initial vehicle purchase. It can also be purchased at later dates and usually costs around the same price
  • Full self-driving kits are becoming more expensive as more functions are added to it, however

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has recommended that Tesla buyers should purchase full-self driving kits as soon as possible. As the technology is honed and more functions are added, the $7,000 price tag can easily double.

If you have the resources to afford full self-driving mode, it is recommended to purchase the software soon. As more goodies are added on, the pricier it will ultimately become.

Is Full Self-Driving Autopilot?

Full self-driving is an upgrade to the Autopilot feature. This is a new feature, much of which is still undergoing tests for improvement. Unlike Autopilot, full self-driving is designed for autonomous vehicle driving (to certain degrees). The many functions of full self-driving cars for Tesla are as follows:

  • Navigate on Autopilot (Beta)
  • Auto Lane Change
  • Autopark
  • Summon
  • Smart Summon
  • Traffic and Stop Sign Control

Full self-driving, however, does come with certain catches. Full self-driving does NOT make the car fully autonomous. You will not be able to just hop in the back seat while the car does all the work. Keep the following in mind when it comes to full self-driving:

  • Full self-driving still requires active driver participation. The vehicles in question will not perform every function of driving on its own
  • Tesla has not perfected fully automated driving technology (without human guidance) as of yet. Many national and local laws have also not adapted to fully automated cars
  • Billions of miles of test driving and tweaks will be needed overtime until fully automated cars will be available and allowed on the road

Until both technology and laws have been adjusted properly, full self-driving still requires active human drivers. This means, much like with Autopilot, your hands need to be on the steering wheel and you must follow both visual and audio signals. If you fail to follow the warnings and guidelines, full self-driving will disable until the end of the drive.

Autopilot Navigate Feature

Navigate is like a super GPS system. It incorporates traditional gps technology with other features to give the onboard computer a full layout of the road. Navigate on Autopilot offers these distinct functions for full self-driving:

  • Guides your vehicle between on-ramp and off-ramp on highways
  • Suggests lane changes to effectively guide the car to the right exit
  • Automatically activates turn signals when the proper routes have been chosen

This feature is meant to give drivers more ease at finding the quickest route to their destinations. As mentioned, it uses features of a normal gps that also adds other extra goodies to help guide the driver during full self-driving mode.

This feature works best when driving on highways. If you know the area, then Navigate likely will not be needed. If you are travelling out of town and are in unfamiliar stretches of road, then this feature will aid the driver in smoothly finding their way around.

Tesla’s Auto Lane Change

Auto lane change is self explanatory. This is an important feature, however, especially when used in general Autopilot functions. Auto lane change offers the following benefits:

  • Helps move the vehicle to adjacent lanes when Autopilot functions are active
  • This feature works best when autosteer is engaged

Auto lane change is useful when trying to merge into different lanes in coordination with full self-driving. This is especially true when it comes to driving on highways. There is an issue with this feature (and many others for the Autopilot umbrella); Tesla has only developed these features for highway driving.

Until Tesla develops programs for urban areas, the overall Autopilot features only work on interstates. Currently, the complexity of city driving is beyond the capabilities of the Autopilot features. Tesla is developing the technology quickly, however. It is only a matter of time before these features are adapted to city driving. Until that time comes, the Autopilot features will stay relatively limited.

Autopark for Tesla’s Full Self-Driving

Parking can often be a hassle for drivers, especially tricky parallel and perpendicular parking. Tesla developed autopark for its Autopilot umbrella features. This is primarily used for full self-driving mode. Autopark allows new Tesla vehicles to do the following:

  • One-touch control that engages certain parking modes, adapting to different parking locations
  • A parking icon will appear to guide you to the best parking spots, even hard to reach ones that many drivers cannot reach

Autopark is one of the most important functions of Tesla’s self-driving mode. In this case, the vehicle does most of the work. Many drivers find it hard to manually park in certain areas, especially when it comes to parallel parking. Autopark eliminates the pressure on the driver in this case.

While autopark does do most of the work here, it is still important for drivers to pay attention and be engaged with the driving process. This is especially true for speed factors. More complicated parking engagements will not activate if you are going over a certain speed limit.

Summon for Tesla’s Full Self-Driving

Summon is unique, something only dreamed of in science fiction mere decades ago. This feature can move your new Tesla vehicle out of certain spaces for you, via remote access.

  • Summon performs a brief automated drive, designed for backing in or out of tight spaces
  • Summon is utilized on both phone apps and car keys
  • This function works well with garage doors, and can link up to other smart home devices

Summon allows you to do just that; summon your vehicle with the push of a button. This will speed up drive times, especially for those who have long commutes to work. It gives you a nice jumpstart to your drive, a bonus many can benefit from.

Summon is only designed for short automated drives. This feature does not allow you to fully drive the car remotely. It is only meant to get in or out of certain spaces in short timeframes. It is also not allowed on roads, only in private parking lots and driveways

Smart Summon for Tesla’s Full Self-Driving

Smart summon is an improved version of summon. Smart summon does allow for more autonomous driving functions of the vehicle. Smart summon is an improvement to standard summon due to the following:

  • The vehicle can drive more complex areas, capable of parallel and perpendicular parking while fully remote
  • The vehicle can maneuver through tight spaces and stop as necessary for objects

Smart summon gives more automation to the Tesla vehicle, though with limitations. Drivers are still ultimately responsible for their vehicle by law. Much like standard summon, laws limit how this feature can be used.

Smart summon, like standard summon, cannot be used on public roads and parking areas. It can only be used in private parking lots or driveways. Until the technology is perfected and local laws adjust, this is not a feature that can be used on the road, unfortunately.

Traffic and Stop Sign Control

This is still in the developmental process. While the technology has not yet been perfected, it has shown promising results so far. Traffic and stop sign control allows a new Tesla vehicle to do the following:

  • Identifies traffic signs and street signals for the vehicle, automatically slowing speed when approaching
  • Can determine different traffic signs and street signals, with your supervision

Traffic and stop sign control is more of an aid than anything else. While it can identify traffic signs and street signals, it still requires a driver’s supervision in order for it to work. The vehicle will not automatically stop or yield, it will only slow its speed.

As mentioned, it is best to consider this feature an aid. It is helpful for the driver, but it is the driver that ultimately must be in control. As with all features under the Tesla Autopilot umbrella, these are not meant to leave the driver out of the driving equation.

What is Tesla’s Autopilot?

Tesla’s Autopilot feature is designed to give drivers extra support while driving on the road. This feature has improved greatly from when it was first introduced. Keep these in mind with the Autopilot feature:

  • Autopilot is not fully automated. The autopilot feature does not make the car’s driving fully remote
  • Autopilot requires your hands to be on the steering wheel at all times
  • Autopilot incorporates simple technologies that have been used in cars for some time now

Autopilot is also an umbrella term. Autopilot is used interchangeably to refer to both the general automated programming and the specific Autopilot feature. This can be confusing for first-time buyers, so it is best to specify. In general, Tesla’s Autopilot comes with certain standard safety features.

  • Traffic Aware Cruise Control
  • Autosteer

The Autopilot feature is designed primarily to give drivers an edge when making long or strenuous drives. As mentioned, Autopilot does not fully automate your car. It is vital that the driver’s hands are controlling the steering wheel.

Traffic Aware Cruise Control for Tesla’s Autopilot

Cruise control is an old feature in many cars. Tesla has taken cruise control to the next level. Older cruise control features in other cars do not account for road traffic when cruising. Traffic, of course, will affect speed and drive time that old cruise controls do not account for. Traffic aware cruise control offers the following improvements:

  • Allows the car to accelerate and slow down with the rate of traffic
  • Keeps the car regularly aware of traffic conditions, preparing for changes in speed before hitting heavy traffic

Traffic aware cruise control builds upon an already well-established feature in many cars. It takes the successful feature and adds new capabilities, expanding its use for potential drivers.

The primary thing to note here is this feature is meant as a support for the driver. This feature is not a replacement for vigilance. It is ultimately the driver’s responsibility to be mindful and watch the road and its various conditions.

Autosteer for Tesla’s Autopilot

Autosteer is a newer feature, found mainly in new Tesla car models such as the Model S and X. As its name suggests, this feature gives an automated function to the steering wheel. This feature is generally placed under the Tesla Autopilot umbrella. Autosteer brings with it the following functions designed for effective driver support:

  • Autosteer measures the torque given to the steering wheel, designed for driving in clearly marked lanes
  • If there is not enough torque, audio and visual alerts will be given to increase torque and keep hands on the steering wheel
  • If you ignore the given signals, then you will be blocked from autopilot for the rest of the drive
  • Autosteer is not developed for city driving yet

Tesla emphasizes that autosteer is not a replacement for manual driving. You may think that the autosteer will drive for you, but that is not the case. Autosteer requires driver attentiveness, performing the same manual driving habits you would in an older car.

Terms like “Autopilot” or “autosteer” may give the impression of full self-driving. This is not the function of these features, however. Full self-driving is a separate function on its own.


Differences between autopilot and self-driving features make them distinct. While they do perform similar roles, they possess features that make them distinct. When gauging these features together, it is best to know their differences.

Autopilot is both a base feature and a wider umbrella term. Full self-driving must be purchased as an add-on feature for new Tesla vehicles. Full self-driving has more functions to it than Autopilot, yet costs a substantial amount of money. These two features, however, are the bedrock of Tesla’s automated vehicle programs of the future.

Tesla Discounts:


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.

Recent Posts