Tesla’s Autopilot system is the manifestation of years of imagining what the future might look like. While humans have not yet invented the Jetson’s ConvAirCar, any vehicle running Tesla’s Autopilot provides a great deal of technologically advanced benefits, with the potential for more down the line.
While there are certain Autopilot benefits that are obvious, like safety and reducing the driver’s responsibilities, benefits like environmental impact and advancing toward fully autonomous driving are not as acknowledged.
In all, the Autopilot software has an unending list of features that benefit both drivers and the population. Read on to learn about how every Tesla feature works to improve life, and the future benefits of Tesla’s current goal: Full Self Driving.
Current Tesla Autopilot Features
Tesla vehicles are full of advanced technological features, and the Autopilot system boasts a ton of beneficial functions. While Autopilot currently still requires the driver to pay attention, these features do a lot of the grunt work that is involved in driving, allowing a mental break for the person behind the wheel.
Check out how each feature takes over different aspects of driving.
In order for Autopilot to function Tesla vehicles utilize advanced hardware and software to gather information. Vehicles manufactured after September 2014 have these components that are necessary for Autopilot:
- Eight cameras
- 12 sensors
- Powerful onboard computer
The specific hardware changes depending on the year the vehicle was manufactured. For example, Tesla vehicles made before March 2019 have Nvidia computer components, but the most recent hardware update for Autopilot includes two bespoke Tesla-designed units.
Tesla has been quick to update hardware to ensure that the Autopilot system gets the chance to gather and process information as efficiently as possible.
Navigate on Autopilot
With Navigate the vehicle drives towards a specific destination. Introduced in October of 2018, it only took Tesla about six months, 66 million miles, and 9 million suggestions before gathering enough information to update the system.
Navigate on Autopilot will assist in the drive by:
- Suggesting lane changes
- Adjusting speed
- Automatically steering toward interchanges and exits
All of this on top of the vehicle doing the bulk work of driving to the end destination.
The Autosteer+ system helps the vehicle navigate on roads that may be tighter or more complex.
While other manufacturers may utilize a lane-keep feature that reacts to the lane lines, Tesla’s Autosteer+ uses a camera to analyze the lane and navigate proactively.
This is especially noticeable when driving on narrow lanes or roads that have sharper curves. Instead of bouncing back and forth along the curve, the Tesla vehicle will smoothly turn while remaining in the center of the lane.
The Autopark feature not only helps the driver find a suitable parking spot, but it also manages to get itself into the spot.
While parking may not be your biggest concern about driving, the parking lot is where a lot of accidents occur. Allowing the Autopilot system to analyze the situation and get you settled into a spot limits the chance that another vehicle is damaged in your endeavor. This also saves you from potential insurance claims.
The Smart Summon feature allows you to call the vehicle to your location.
This helps you out if you cannot remember where you parked, but it is especially helpful if you are leaving the store with arms full of goodies.
Full Self Driving
While Tesla Vehicles are not Full Self Driving, all new Tesla’s are equipped with the appropriate hardware in anticipation of Full Self Driving.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the big claim that Tesla Full Self Driving would be ready by the end of 2021, but no one is prepared to hold him to that.
While Tesla has been hard at work to prove just how safe Autopilot is, there are plenty of agencies that look upon the feature with scrutiny. For now, Tesla is still fighting an uphill battle for their current Autopilot system.
Still, it is good to know that they already have Full Self Driving in mind. Even if it comes out years down the line, ensuring that current vehicles are properly equipped increases the number of vehicles and drivers that will benefit from the feature.
Benefits of Tesla Autopilot
It is clear that Tesla’s Autopilot system is a cool, modern advancement that is getting consumers closer to the goal of fully autonomous vehicles. Autopilot has plenty of benefits you can see at face value.
However, what other benefits arise when you dig a bit deeper?
Safer Driving Experience
Tesla vehicles are known for their safety. The Models S, X, and 3 have all accomplished the lowest overall injury probability of any vehicle tested by the new car assessment program overseen by the United States government.
Tesla keeps its passengers safe by using real-world data to improve safety. Tesla vehicles create a network of information that the manufacturer constantly taps into to determine how to better their products to create a safer experience for both the people riding in their vehicle and those around it.
The intricate information gathering system of cameras, sensors, and radar provide more visibility than a driver could possibly have. This goes beyond “checking your blind spots.” Thanks to this intricate system Tesla’s Autopilot has no blind spots, meaning that every decision Autopilot makes is more informed than one a driver would make.
Autopilot in Case of Impaired Driving
A large criticism of the Autopilot system is the fact that it allows drivers to use the vehicle while they are impaired.
The fact of the matter here is that many of these drivers would still be behind the wheel even if they did not drive a car with Autopilot, and with that being the case Autopilot is still the safer option.
An impaired driver cannot do things like:
- React in a timely manner
- Stay within their lane
- Accelerate and brake appropriately
- Maintain an appropriate following distance
But Autopilot can.
Still, Tesla implements features to discourage the impaired use of Autopilot. There are sensors in the steering wheel to ensure that the driver keeps their hands on the wheel at all times. If the driver removes their hands from the wheel for an extended period it instigates Tesla’s Nag program.
At that point, the vehicle will deploy notifications and even beep to remind the driver to keep their hands on the wheel. If they still do not do so the Tesla will slow and come to a complete stop until the driver responds.
Less Demand on Driver
It may seem like a small thing, not having to be as active when driving, but driving can be a stressful experience.
There are plenty of people who have PTSD from things like accidents. While some never return to the car, many must still drive despite the stress it causes them.
Being able to hand some of the responsibility to someone else can actually improve the quality of your ride exponentially. Can you imagine coming home after a long day of work and not stressing about the end-of-day traffic?
With Tesla’s Navigate feature there is also less time lost on last-minute directions. Regular maps and navigation software do their best to give you ample time for things like turns or exiting the highway, but it seems like they somehow forget from time to time.
When your Tesla is navigating it is like the vehicle is driving from memory. It does not need to rely on audible directions to prepare for the next step in navigation.
Of course, Tesla vehicles still require drivers to pay attention during the drive, but at that point, they function as more of a backup plan. You will find that even though your hands are still at ten and two, your shoulders are not as tense and you can breathe a bit easier.
Tesla’s Autopilot is created to optimize driving. This means that your ride should be more smooth than if a human were driving.
Think of it in varying degrees of disconnect.
If someone were driving the vehicle without actually riding in it, using something like a remote, they would not be able to drive as smoothly as someone sitting inside the vehicle. This is because there is a greater degree of separation.
Using that logic, a person sitting in the vehicle will not be able to utilize the vehicle as well as the software that is part of the vehicle.
Autopilot is designed to both control and work alongside every aspect of your vehicle. Furthermore, it is not distracted by human thoughts. It exists only to receive information, process it, and make a decision.
You will notice that Autopilot performs functions better than even you can, including:
- Following distance
- Changing lanes
Do not worry too much about Autopilot handling the car better than you ever could; you still have better taste in music, and now you have more time to focus on that.
Perhaps the most unique feature of Tesla vehicles is the fact that they are fully electric. While many manufacturers are picking up the pace to move towards electric automobiles, Tesla is already there.
On top of this cleaner energy source, the improved performance of Tesla’s Autopilot system means that the vehicle will spend less energy on the driver’s mistakes. Less energy used means less energy to replace it, and every little bit adds up.
Furthermore, a safer Autopilot system reduces the number of accidents on the road. While a key benefit of this is fewer fatalities and injuries, having less accident debris helps keep the environment clean.
Tesla vehicles do not contribute as much in the way of emissions, but a driver that causes a traffic jam can easily be responsible for the emissions of all the gas vehicles stuck behind him.
Autopilot features are optimized to prevent things like traffic jams by ensuring proper following distance and avoiding accidents.
The Future of Autopilot
While all those benefits are great for consumers, there is no reason that you should settle for them.
Tesla Autopilot benefits will really begin to shine as the manufacturer makes more progress toward a completely autonomous vehicle.
Before getting into those benefits below, you must first understand the five levels of autonomous vehicles to give a baseline.
The Five Levels of Autonomous Vehicles
There are five degrees of autonomy that a vehicle can reach (six if you count a complete lack of autonomy).
These are numbered 0 through 5 with 5 being the most autonomous.
Vehicle Autonomy: Level 0
This is the state of most cars on the road today. While cars that completely lack autonomy are dying off, plenty of drivers still use them.
Vehicle Autonomy Level 1
The first level of vehicle autonomy includes vehicles that provide driver assistance. This comes in the form of things like adaptive cruise control that maintains following distance or lane-keep assistance that nudges the vehicle back within the boundaries of the lane.
Vehicle Autonomy Level 2
At level two the vehicle operates using partial automation. Tesla’s current Autopilot system is here.
The driver must keep their hands on the wheel and prepare to assist in things like controlling speed or steering, but the vehicle still performs functions like maintaining following distance or centering the car.
Vehicle Autonomy Level 3
Tesla is on its way to conditional automation. At this point, the vehicle can drive itself under ideal conditions, but there are still limits. You can finally take your hands off the wheel, but you must stay in the driver’s seat and keep an observant eye on the road.
Vehicle Autonomy Level 4
Level four is where the vehicle drives without human interaction. Sure, you still need to enter your destination, but other than that you have basically been freed.
Vehicle Autonomy Level 5
The end goal is a truly driverless vehicle that can evaluate and drive in all road conditions without human intervention.
If car manufacturers ever get their cars to this level of full autonomy, humans can forget about steering wheels, gear shifts, and pedals altogether. This is Tesla’s ultimate goal.
The Future Benefits of Fully Autonomous Vehicles
While fully autonomous vehicles are exciting, they come with a set of benefits that Tesla’s Autopilot is taking consumers closer to every day.
Even Greater Safety
If a vehicle that is using partial automation is already working towards eliminating accidents, imagine how much safer roads will be when they are full of fully autonomous vehicles.
It is estimated that driver behavior or error is a factor in 94 percent of accidents. Getting rid of the chance of driver behavior and error and replacing it with a carefully developed system gives consumers the chance to at least reduce the occurrence of risky or dangerous driving.
Without a human to make the mistake, you get rid of things like:
- Road rage
- Driver distraction
- Driver error
This does not mean that accidents will not happen, but you can almost guarantee they will not occur at a rate of 94 percent.
Fully autonomous cars are a stride towards increasing independence for people who are unable to drive for any given reason.
They would be able to go anywhere they wanted when they wanted without having to wait for an Uber or a friend.
An autonomous car would aid in self-sufficiency for seniors who have lost their driving privileges but otherwise function fine in the world.
While this may not be a benefit that applies to everyone, it would still be a major advancement to improve the quality of human life.
This is a domino effect situation.
If fully autonomous vehicles are able to nearly eliminate accidents then the cost of insurance should drop. If there are no accidents then insurance companies are not paying for things like:
- Medical bills
- Vehicle repair
- Property damage
Therefore insurance prices should drop drastically, though they may morph into something more along the lines of an extended warranty.
Along these lines, people will not be out of work for things like accident recovery or losing their commuting vehicle. This should keep more people in a job and stimulate more money to circulate within the economy.
The last potential benefit of a fully autonomous car is the chance for increased productivity.
While Tesla currently sits at level two autonomy and requires the driver to be alert, once they read a fully autonomous model the driver will regain the drive time.
They can then use this time for any number of things. Maybe a college student needs to finish last night’s homework before they get to class. Maybe you need to review a major presentation you are giving at work.
The point is that you would be able to do whatever you want with that time.
While Tesla’s Autopilot is certainly cool on the surface, the deeper value of it is ready to become an intrinsic part of everyday life.
With every mile driven, Autopilot benefits consumers by keeping roads safe, reducing stress, improving performance, and reducing the environmental impact of vehicles on the earth.
The real benefits of Tesla Autopilot will become blatantly clear as it gets closer to a fully automated system. While there will still be people who do not trust it and even go as far as condemning it, Autopilot is undeniably taking steps forward to improve the human condition.