Tesla Autopilot vs. Volvo Pilot Assist – Safety Truth be Told!

Tesla Autopilot vs. Volvo Pilot Assist – Safety Truth be Told!

When it comes to safety, both Tesla and Volvo are often mentioned as two of the companies that take it most seriously. The latest technology incorporated into the Tesla Autopilot and the Volvo Pilot Assist is designed to keep drivers safer on the road and protect passengers. The question is how these two systems compare with one another. 

Tesla Autopilot and Volvo Pilot Assist are built with similar features and technology in mind. They compare favorably with one another, with the exception that Tesla’s version is designed one day to lead to driverless cars. Both companies have developed a system that garners excellent safety reviews. 

As you consider ways to make driving safer and more enjoyable, it is worth comparing the new features with the Tesla Autopilot and the Volvo Pilot Assist. Continue reading to learn the truth behind the safety record of both systems and then decide for yourself which one you would have guiding you behind the wheel. 

A Note About Safety

While there is virtually no data that indicates either Volvo Pilot Assist or Tesla Autopilot decreases driver safety, there is plenty that shows it reduces accidents. That is what both systems are designed to do. They do not replace drivers, but they help alert them to certain variables on the road that they might not be aware of. To that end, both appear to be successful. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated that driver assistance technology can reduce the number of accidents every year, saving thousands of lives in the process. It has reviewed both Volvo’s Pilot Assist and Tesla’s Autopilot and found this to be true. Given that more than 36,000 people die every year in car crashes, this has enormous safety implications.

The Purpose of Driver-Assisted Technology

As its name implies, driver assisted technology is designed to help drivers better navigate traffic and parking. From features such as a rear view camera to aid in backing up to lane keeping technology to make sure the car does not drift into another lane, the intent is to reduce accidents. 

It is important to remember that this technology is not meant to replace drivers at this time. In fact, drivers must always remain in control of the vehicle. They are also able to deactivate any of the features they do not want to use, no matter what the reason might be. For its part, Tesla is working on a system that will allow for full driverless capabilities in the future. 

A Review of the Volvo Pilot Assist

The Volvo Pilot Assist is advertised as a semi-autonomous driving aid. It is currently offered in every Volvo model manufactured around the world. This means that drivers of Volvo sedans, SUVs, and station wagons are able to take advantage of the new technology. Of course, the question is how effective and safe the system is when driving in everyday traffic. 

What Does Pilot Assist Do?

The basic premise of Volvo Pilot Assist is to provide help to the driver in terms of steering away from potential obstacles that could cause an accident. A prime example of this is the importance of staying in the right lane when driving in city or highway traffic. Drivers can often become distracted, causing the car to begin to drift into the wrong lane. 

When Volo Pilot Assist is engaged, the car will automatically help the driver stay within his or her own lane. This is a real game changer when it comes to staying safe on the road. With many accidents happening because a car moves outside of its lane unexpectedly, Volvo’s Pilot Assist has undoubtedly helped to avoid quite a few accidents as a result of its use. 

Pilot Assist’s Acceleration and Deceleration Features

Volvo Pilot Assist is also meant to help a driver keep the car at an appropriate speed given the current rate of traffic on the road. This is most useful on the highway. If you have been driving for quite some time, you are used to cruise control. The Pilot Assist system takes this to an entirely new level. 

Instead of the driver having to disengage manually and then reengage the cruise control when other traffic is getting too close, the Pilot Assist feature will automatically decelerate the car for the driver. When it is perceived safe to regain speed again, the Volvo will then accelerate up to the preset speed that the driver indicated when engaging the system. 

Is Adaptive Cruise Control Safe?

While some might argue that this system will cause drivers to lose focus on the road as they depend on the technology to keep them safe, Volvo would argue that exactly the opposite is true. With driver distraction as one of the most significant causes of accidents on the road today, this technology is seen as a way to keep drivers and other cars safe. 

Driving on the highway can be monotonous. If a driver loses focus for even one second, an accident can happen. This often occurs when a driver gets too close to the traffic in front of them. Volvo Pilot Assist is designed to keep this from happening by providing a fail safe option that will engage the brakes automatically when it becomes necessary. 

How is Steering Assistance Enabled?

With Volvo Pilot Assist, the driver must enable the system in order for it to work. There are many reasons behind this, with current government regulations being among them. Volvo has made activating the system quite simple. There are some toggle buttons built right into the steering wheel. The driver just needs to toggle that to activate the appropriate feature. 

The toggle switch is very safe to use. It is placed where the driver’s hands should already be, so they do not have to take their eyes off the road to use them. This is yet another way that Volvo has enhanced the safety of its Pilot Assist system. When a driver wants to turn off the system, it is extremely easy to do so without compromising their safety on the road.

When Pilot Assist is activated, a green symbol is displayed on the screen in front of the driver. It is really that simple. There are plenty of situations where drivers might not want to take advantage of Pilot Assist, such as when driving on unmarked country roads that might confuse the technology. This is because the system cannot determine lane markings, so it is better to leave the decisions up to the driver in this situation.

Can Pilot Assist Be Used All the Time When Driving?

It is important to note that Pilot Assist will not always be available. There are certain situations where Volvo has determined that the technology might not perform as it was intended. One example is during inclement weather. This makes it difficult for the system to read lane markings on the road, which is required for many of its features to engage correctly. 

When the system determines that it may not work correctly, it will show itself as unavailable. This is another built-in safety feature. Other features, such as emergency braking, may always be available if the driver chooses to use them.

Drivers also need to be mindful that they must always remain in control of the vehicle, so they can self-correct any improper steering that the car tries to do on its own. To keep Pilot Assist operating safely and as it was intended, the driver must stay involved at all times. Absent that, the system would not be safe and will turn itself off.

Is Volvo Pilot Assist Now a Standard Feature?

Whereas some manufacturers make owners pay extra for driver assisted technology, Tesla being among them, Volvo includes its Pilot Assist as a standard feature in all of its vehicle models. It is reviewed to work well and takes a lot of the stress out of driving on the highways. 

It has been noted that Pilot Assist works better on some models than on others. On the Volvo XC60, for example, many drivers have reported that the automatic steering feature keeps the vehicle pushed a bit over to the left at the time. However, there is no such concern reported when reviewing the Volvo V90 Cross Country. 

When comparing these two systems, it is important to note that the Volvo Pilot Assist does not have a full autonomous driving feature. The driver always remains responsible for all steering, acceleration, and braking functions in the vehicle at all times.

This is a bit different in scope than Autopilot. Tesla has designed several features that will one day lead to autonomous driving. One of these is the Navigate with Autopilot feature that is now available. While drivers must still be involved at this stage, Tesla has positioned the system to be driverless in the future when it is deemed safe and legal to do so.

A Review of the Tesla Autopilot

On its surface, Tesla’s Autopilot will seem very similar to that of the Volvo Pilot Assist. Many of the same features are present. The difference is the extent to which the driver is involved and how each part of Autopilot is activated. Autopilot has been a fixture in Tesla automobiles since 2016. New technology and upgrades are made available via a simple software push online. 

Does Autopilot Replace the Driver?

From the outset, Tesla has always had the goal of creating a fully self-autonomous vehicle with the development of Autopilot. This means that the aim is to one day have a car that will drive itself, independent of a licensed driver actually being behind the steering wheel. To that end, Autopilot has full self-driving feature already included with the system. 

The NHSTA has found that the overwhelming majority of the 36,000 crashes resulting in death that occur every year in the United States are the result of driver error. If Autopilot can take over in those situations where a driver has lost sight of potential obstacles on the road, lives will be saved. In fact, data already backs up this point. Volvo Pilot Assist can make similar claims.

However, it is not yet legal for these features to be used without a driver being involved. Tesla continues to test these features in the hopes that one day government regulations will ease the point that cars can navigate traffic independently. Until that day comes, the features can still be used with a driver in control. 

This is a different approach than that of Volvo’s Pilot Assist. Whereas Volvo has created a system that is meant to be used purely as an aid to the driver, Tesla’s Autopilot desires to go a step beyond that with its development of a self-driving vehicle. The issue is whether or not it is safe to do so. 

Is Autopilot Included With all Tesla Vehicles?

This is a bit of a loaded of question and is once again an area where Tesla differs from Volvo. While every Tesla vehicle now sold in the United States and Europe comes with Autopilot capabilities, it is turned off by default. Turning it on requires the purchase of a package from two available options. 

  • Autopilot only
  • Autopilot with full self-driving capability

Getting all of the functionality of Autopilot will cost you $2,000. However, this is a one time fee and includes all future upgrades. Upgrading to full self-driving capability will cost a total of $10,000. 

You might wonder why anybody would pay to have a fully self-driving Autopilot if it is not available yet, nor has it been determined to be safe enough for a massive unveiling. The reality is that certain Autopilot features do work independent of driver interaction, and it is perfectly legal for it to do so. Certain parking features are a perfect example. 

Autopilots Stop and Go Feature Really Enhances Safety

Several other components on the Autopilot are not available with Pilot Assist and are designed to further enhance the safety of drivers and other vehicles on the road. One of these includes is the Stop and Go in Traffic feature. This is a way to help drivers ensure that they stop well in advance of either a stop sign or an upcoming traffic signal.

This feature comes about after research that indicates far too many accidents occur as the result of a driver becoming inattentive and running through either a stop sign or red light. If that appears to be happening with Autopilot enabled, this feature will automatically apply the brakes in advance of the intersection. The car will then accelerate when it is safe to do so. 

Navigation with Autopilot is a Real Game Changer

The one feature that perhaps enhances safety more than any other is Navigation with Autopilot. This is where the idea of self-driving vehicles comes from, even though it is not quite ready to be embraced by the world yet. Until that day happens, this feature allows drivers to benefit from technology assisted route mapping and navigation. 

It is designed to work on the highway, although it has since been tested on city roads. Once the driver inputs the desired destination, Autopilot will determine how best to get there. It will consider prevailing traffic patterns and work to safely put the vehicle in the best position to arrive at its final destination. 

Here are some of the components of the Navigate with Autopilot feature that Tesla has now made available to its drivers:

  • Lane change suggestions – Some highways have numerous lanes. Autopilot will sense which lane is best given the point in the vehicle’s journey and then make a suggestion for the driver to follow. 
  • Navigating highway interchanges – Highway interchanges can come up suddenly. Drivers often miss these or create near accidents by trying to change lanes too quickly. Autopilot helps to take that variable out of the equation by helping the driver get in the proper position far in advance of an upcoming interchange. 
  • Automatic turn signal indicators – It is essential to alert the other cars on the road of your lane change. To make that easier, Autopilot will automatically turn your indicator on and off at the appropriate times. 
  • Exiting the highway – Similar to an interchange, it is important to be in the correct lane at the right time in order to take the appropriate exit to reach your destination safely. Part of this feature has Autopilot taking care of that for you. 

Each of these features are designed to enhance the overall safety of the vehicle. While it does not replace the driver, it is like having a navigator that kicks in to perform its duties when called upon. It is believed that this one feature has already helped prevent numerous accidents while also creating a more efficient journey on the whole. 


After reading through this comparison of the Autopilot and Pilot Assist, the direction that technology is headed should be apparent. It is important to develop cars in the future that are safer and more accessible than ever before. Tesla and Volvo certainly appear to be headed in the right direction.

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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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