Self-driving cars are quickly becoming closer to reality than science fiction, and many automotive companies are taking advantage of rapidly advancing technology in this area to equip their vehicles with semi-automated driving systems. The two systems battling to be the best of the best currently are Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise. So, who is the top dog?
Both Tesla Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise are excellent systems that provide accurate auto-steering functions. Tesla’s Autopilot shines in offering more features and capability, but Cadillac’s Super Cruise gives drivers a slightly safer and smoother experience.
Although the systems are similar, Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise use different technology and interact with drivers in different ways. Keep reading to explore the details of both these systems and answer the question of which one is the best.
Tesla Autopilot and Cadillac Super Cruise
Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise are both proprietary automated driving systems. They both allow the car to brake, accelerate, and even steer by itself. However, how each system works and what exactly it is capable of differs between the two.
First, you should take a closer look at each individual system before you can accurately start pitting them against each other.
Tesla Autopilot has been around since 2015, but Tesla has continued to advance the system with updates and new features. Tesla Autopilot refers to two different systems. All Teslas come equipped with standard Autopilot, but you can also purchase a package Tesla refers to as full self-driving (FSD) with many additional and more advanced capabilities.
So what do Tesla Autopilot and FSD do for your Tesla? Here is what each system offers.
There are only two features that come with the standard Autopilot on a Tesla. These features give your Tesla capabilities which are essentially advanced cruise control.
- Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (TACC): This allows your Tesla not only to cruise but to safely follow other cars. It can stop and go in traffic.
- Autosteer: When TACC is engaged, this function keeps your Tesla centered in its lane.
Your Tesla comes already able to access these features. If you start with just Standard Autopilot you can choose to upgrade to the Full Self-Driving mode later since the difference between standard and FSD requires a software update and not adding any hardware to your car.
Full Self-Driving (FSD):
With the Full Self-Driving, you get six new features with a seventh feature on the way. The Full Self-Driving package is truly what makes Tesla Autopilot stand out.
- Navigate on Autopilot: Navigate on Autopilot is one of Tesla’s newest Autopilot features. It allows your Tesla to follow a GPS route, driving you to your destination. Navigate on Autopilot only works on highways. It can enter and exit highways as well as change lanes. While the car does the driving, the system does require prompting from the driver.
- Automatic Lane Changes: Auto lane changes allow your Tesla to change lanes for you. It works through the turning signal and requires driver confirmation, although driver confirmation can sometimes be turned off in settings.
- Autopark: As the name suggests this feature parks your car for you. The Tesla can detect parking spots when going under a certain speed. The use of this feature still requires driver awareness especially to check for anything behind the vehicle.
- Summon: Summon allows your car to get itself out of a parking space. You can access this to call your car through the Tesla app. Summon is for getting your car out of narrow spaces or even out of the garage.
- Smart Summon: While a normal summon gets your car out of a parking space, smart summon goes a step further. This feature lets your Tesla navigate a parking lot to pick you up all while avoiding obstacles. You must be within 200 feet of your Tesla for this to work.
- Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control: This is another newer feature. Your Tesla can recognize when it is approaching a traffic light or stop sign and slow or stop accordingly. This feature is designed to enhance the self-driving of standard Autopilot.
- Autosteer on City Streets (Upcoming): This feature is not released but is expected to be the next big update for FSD. It should increase the auto-steering ability of a Tesla to be able to handle the complexity of city streets rather than just highways.
All of the extra features that come with the Full Self-Driving mode come with a price. It costs $10,000 extra to add FSD to your Tesla. At one time Tesla was offering a middle package called Enhanced Autopilot that included some of the features of FSD for a lower price. However, that option is currently not available in America, and it is unclear if it will return.
How Does Tesla Autopilot Work?
Autopilot works through a system of eight cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors. Together these cameras and sensors work to create a 360-degree range of vision for your Tesla’s computers.
The computers in a Tesla have incredible processing power which allows them to take the information provided by the cameras and sensors and process it fast enough to make decisions at the same speed as a human observing their surroundings.
How Does Tesla Autopilot Work for the Driver?
From the perspective of the driver, the standard Tesla Autopilot works kind of like cruise control. You cannot take your hands off the wheel. The system will alert you after 30 seconds to put your hands back on the wheel.
The full self-driving mode is slightly different, although the name is misleading. Tesla’s current FSD program is far from making your Tesla fully autonomous, and the way it works with the driver reflects this. When you use Navigate on Autopilot, you will be prompted to make decisions about lane changes and other things that force the driver to remain aware. Your hands still need to be on the wheel as well.
Also, the Navigate on Autopilot feature can currently only be used on highways. The name is misleading since Tesla’s fully self-driving system is a far cry from an actual self-driving car. It still requires the driver to be active.
Cadillac Super Cruise
Tesla Autopilot has been making headlines, especially due to Elon Musk’s desire to eventually turn Teslas into fully autonomous self-driving cars, but Tesla is not the only one with an impressive automated driving system. Cadillac’s Super Cruise is another game-changing system, and some would argue it is even better than Tesla’s.
Super Cruise does not have as many features as Tesla’s FSD. What Super Cruise basically does is drive the car for you. On compatible roads, which are large highways, Super Cruise can steer, change lanes, brake, and accelerate. It is comparable to Tesla’s Navigate on Autopilot feature.
Super Cruise currently comes on the following Cadillac vehicles:
- 2018-2020 CT6
- 2021 CT4
- 2021 CT5
- 2021 Escalade
- 2023 LYRIQ (upcoming)
The bad news is that because Super Cruise requires access to Cadillac Connection Services, you do have to pay for a Cadillac Connection Services plan. The good news is that all of the vehicles that come with Super Cruise also include 3 free years of connection, and after that, the price for a plan is around $25 a month.
How Does Super Cruise Work?
Like Tesla Autopilot, Super Cruise uses cameras and sensors, but it also has an extra method for controlling your car: LiDAR map data.
LiDAR stands for light detection and ranging. It is a mapping method that creates highly accurate results which include even the topography of the landscape. Super Cruise has your Cadillac connect to Cadillac Connection Services where it can access the LiDAR map data.
With this data, your Cadillac not only knows exactly where it is, but it also knows the lay of the land. The result is incredibly smooth automated driving.
How Does Super Cruise Work for the Driver?
Cadillac’s Super Cruise prides itself on being a hands-off driving experience, which means that unlike with Tesla’s Autopilot you can take your hands off the wheel when engaging Super Cruise.
That does not mean you don’t have to pay attention, however. Super Cruise makes use of one camera that Tesla Autopilot does not: an inside camera. A camera positioned on the steering wheel will confirm whether the driver is paying attention or not. If you try to look at a handheld device or close your eyes Super Cruise will warn you and disengage.
Because of the use of LiDAR mapping, Super Cruise can only be used on compatible roadways. Right now this is restricted to many (but not all) major highways. The number of compatible roadways is sure to expand in the future.
The Battle: Autopilot vs. Super Cruise
Now that each of these systems has been broken down and explained, it is time to place them in a more direct comparison.
Which is better: Tesla’s Autopilot or Cadillac’s Super Cruise?
Tesla makes exclusive electric vehicles, so if you are interested in their Autopilot system you will also be getting an electric vehicle.
Cadillac on the other hand makes mostly gas-powered vehicles. However, their upcoming 2023 LYRIQ will be a fully electric vehicle and will also be equipped with Super Cruise.
If you want an electric vehicle with an automated driving system Tesla clearly has a bigger market. You will have to wait for 2023 to get your hands on Cadillac’s electric offering.
Winner: Tesla Autopilot
Automated driving tends to make people a little nervous and for good reason. The idea of your car driving itself is scary and potentially disastrous. That is why how well a self-driving system handles safety is a priority.
In terms of maintaining driver awareness, Tesla has a bad track record which it needs to remedy. Recently, the company has been under fire for two fatal car crashes which occurred while the Tesla was being controlled by Autopilot. Their system may be inspiring too much confidence in their drivers, who have been caught allowing the Tesla to drive itself without supervision.
Tesla has responded to this by forcing more driver interaction. The new Navigate of Autopilot mode requires the driver to respond to prompting and many are applauding this step as making Autopilot safer.
While Tesla has stated that Autopilot requires driver supervision, the company continues to brag about the capabilities of its program, and this attitude may be causing more recklessness from their consumers.
Super Cruise may be hands-off but the camera on the steering wheel serves as an effective method for keeping drivers responsible. The camera tracks your gaze which forces drivers to actually look at the road.
This system has proven far more effective at maintaining driver awareness than systems, like Tesla’s Autopilot, that only require hands on the wheel. The camera is very difficult to fool and ensures that drivers are not treating Super Cruise like a fully self-driving car.
As another bonus, Cadillacs with Super Cruise also come equipped with OnStar Emergency Services which allows emergency services to contact drivers that become unresponsive while Super Cruise is operating.
Winner: Super Cruise
There can be little doubt that when it comes to the bells and whistles, Tesla has a lot more going for it. While Super Cruise will drive your car on major highways, Tesla’s FSD package allows your car to park itself, pick you up, and stop for stop signs and traffic lights. Soon, it should be able to drive on city streets as well.
Tesla Autopilot also does not rely on an outside connection to get their information. They drive using only the information gathered from the car’s sensors, while Super Cruise has to have a connection to access the LiDAR map data.
This means that Tesla Autopilot can operate on a wider range of roads while Super Cruise is limited to roads for which they have map data. Cadillac is expanding the compatible roads, but Tesla is far in the lead.
Winner: Tesla Autopilot
Can you feel the difference between a machine driving and a human driver? The answer is that it depends on the machine.
Because Tesla Autopilot relies on the data it gathers in real-time from the camera and sensors, its driving is an infinite series of computer-like responses. In other words, Tesla Autopilot does not feel like a human behind the wheel. While the system drives well, it is not as smooth as a human operator.
Cadillac’s Super Cruise benefits greatly in this area from its LiDAR map data. A vehicle on Super Cruise is not only aware of its surroundings, but it also knows the exact shape of the road. As a result, Super Cruise simulates a more human-style driving style.
Winner: Super Cruise
We all know that Cadillacs and Teslas are not cheap cars. They are both considered luxury car brands for a reason. For this purpose of this article though, take a look at just how much the automated driving system will cost you.
If you want the full package from Tesla (FSD) it will currently cost you an extra $10,000 on top of the price of the car. Super Cruise is free for the first 3 years and then costs $25 a month. At that rate, it would take around 37 years for the price of Super Cruise to equal the price of Tesla’s FSD.
Of course, Tesla does have the standard Autopilot which comes on all their cars, but standard Autopilot loses almost all of what makes Tesla Autopilot stand apart.
Winner: Super Cruise
Overall Winner: Super Cruise
Despite the extra features and name recognition of Tesla Autopilot, Cadillac’s Super Cruise inches it out as the best automated driving system for several reasons.
Because of LiDAR mapping, Super Cruise provides a smoother ride than Tesla Autopilot, and the camera tracking eye gaze makes this the safest automated driving system available today. Plus the system itself costs nothing, unlike Tesla’s $10,000 price tag.
Super Cruise may not do as much as Tesla but it does what it does do better. Tesla may be trying to add too much too fast.
The Other Winner: Tesla Autopilot
After reading this, you should not have the impression that Tesla Autopilot is bad because that is far from the case. Both Tesla Autopilot and Super Cruise are fantastic systems.
Although Super Cruise has distinct advantages, for drivers who want an electric vehicle or who want to be on the absolute cusp of self-driving technology, Tesla Autopilot cannot be beaten.
Tesla Autopilot and Super Cruise both represent just how far automated driving technology has come in recent years. With Super Cruise, you can experience hands-free driving, and with Tesla Autopilot you can have your car become your chauffeur. Both are incredible systems!
As the technology behind both these systems continues to advance, you can expect both Tesla Autopilot and Super Cruise to continue to develop. You should look forward to seeing the improvements each system will make in the future!