Autopilot is one of the most sought-out features of any Tesla model. However, this feature isn’t available in all Tesla years or models. If you don’t look into the Tesla models before making your purchase, you might end up with a Tesla that doesn’t have the Autopilot feature.
All Tesla models have come with Autopilot as one of their standard features since the year 2016. The Autopilot feature can be found in Tesla Model 3, Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, Tesla Model Y, and the Tesla Cybertruck.
Autopilot is an important feature of the Tesla brand. If that’s an important capability to you when you’re purchasing a car from the company, you’ll need to pay attention to which models incorporate it. Keep reading to learn more about Tesla’s Autopilot feature and which models you can purchase that have it.
Tesla may include Autopilot as a standard feature now, but just a few years ago this feature was a state-of-the-art addition that was only present in a few vehicles. In the beginning, Tesla didn’t offer Autopilot as part of any standard car model.
Instead, Tesla offered the Autopilot feature as an option. This option was called the “Tech Package” and contained the initial version of Tesla’s semi-autonomous self-driving network. Since then, the Tesla Autopilot software has been updated multiple times to reflect the new information from the artificial intelligence (AI) in Tesla’s driving network.
From 2014 to 2016, Tesla vehicles incorporated the 1.0 autopilot feature. This was an introductory learning period for Tesla’s software while the network gathered data from Tesla drivers on the road to integrate into its systems. But in the summer of 2016, Elon Musk announced an upgrade to Tesla’s Autopilot feature that included the following features:
- Coarse point cloud technology: The second major update of Tesla’s Autopilot was known as Autopilot 8.0. This version used coarse point cloud technology that the vehicle uses to judge distances between itself and objects even in low visibility environments.
- Automatic lane change: The automatic lane change feature is one of the most popular in autopilot, but this isn’t the extent of Autopilot 8.0’s lane-changing technology. This version of Tesla’s Autopilot system also allowed cars to change freeways or merge off the interstate on autopilot.
- Autosteer: Autosteer is the ability of the car to control itself accurately on divided highways or local roads with a speed limit of up to forty-five miles an hour. As semi-autonomous software becomes more sophisticated, autosteer capabilities increase and allow drivers to take less control during the car’s operation.
- Traffic-aware cruise control: Traffic-aware cruise control is used in Tesla vehicles to help maintain consistent power usage and also to prevent car drivers from having to use the brakes in response to the traffic around them when they’re engaging the cruise control.
Since 2016, the Autopilot feature in Tesla vehicles has only continued to become more sophisticated in response to data gathered by the networked vehicles it already operates on the road. Using data from these vehicles, Tesla can turn around and make its AI network more intuitive and efficient.
If you’re looking for a new Tesla and you want Autopilot, you don’t have anything to worry about. Since 2016, all new Tesla models have come with standard autopilot included as part of their driving software. (Source: Tesla) Even if you purchase one of Tesla’s more economical models, you’ll get the same access to Tesla Autopilot as drivers of their luxury models.
This was both in response to demand from consumers as well as a practical consideration – the more cars Tesla has on the road with the autopilot AI, the more effective it becomes. Since the self-driving software also helps decrease the incidence of accidents, this higher safety standard also works to help reinforce Tesla’s already impressive reputation.
As of 2021, you can find the Autopilot feature in the following Tesla models dated for 2016 through 2021 (Source: Cars.com):
- Tesla Model 3: The Tesla Model 3 is Tesla’s base commuter sedan, and this car is also Tesla’s least expensive model for Tesla newcomers. The Tesla Model 3 was the oldest Tesla model to contain self-driving technology.
- Tesla Model S: The Tesla Model S is a larger, heavier version of the Model 3, but it is still built like a classic four-door sedan. The Model S also comes with larger, high-performance wheels compared to the Model 3.
- Tesla Model X: The Tesla Model X is one of the oldest models in Tesla’s lineup, coming fast on the heels of the Model S in 2012. However, due to production issues, the Model X didn’t actually end up in active use until 2015.
- Tesla Model Y: The Tesla Y is Tesla’s compact crossover SUV and is similar to the design of the Model 3 except that it includes a third row for seven-person seating. The Model Y is the first Tesla vehicle to utilize a mechanical heat pump rather than heat generated by the car’s electrical resistance.
- Tesla Cybertruck: The Tesla Cybertruck is Tesla’s first venture into electric trucks. As Tesla’s newest model, the Cybertruck has self-driving software fully integrated into its control systems.
Now that all Tesla vehicles come with stock autopilot features, you don’t have to worry about choosing a model that doesn’t incorporate it. Whether you want a luxury sports car, an SUV, or just a regular commuter sedan, you can use it with Tesla Autopilot.
The great part about Tesla’s autopilot system is that it automatically syncs to the overarching Tesla network and continually updates. This way your car has the most precise data available to operate its self-driving hardware.
While Tesla’s autopilot software is advertised as a self-driving suite, it’s important to keep in mind that the software in Tesla’s AI is only categorized as a Level 2 self-driving AI. Level 2 autonomy in automotive engineering means that only part of the car’s operations is controlled by artificial intelligence. The car still needs operator input to be controlled safely.
Fully-automated Autopilot became a goal for Tesla back when the technology was first integrated into Tesla’s automotive systems. While the first version of Autopilot was quite simplistic compared to Tesla’s current AI suite, each new official update to the system brought with it new features that could be used as part of the system.
The self-driving capacity of Tesla’s Autopilot has features that encompass various driving systems in the car from camera and monitoring sensors to the car’s self-driving safety features. Here are a few of the most important features you can find in Tesla’s Autopilot programs:
- Traffic-aware cruise control: Traffic-aware cruise control makes it much easier to control the speed of your vehicle without having to waste power by constantly disengaging and engaging your cruise control in response to traffic delays. Tesla’s system can self-adjust for these slowdowns to avoid a wreck.
- AI visualization: The camera system on Tesla vehicles allows the AI software to visualize obstacles, traffic signs, the road, and other vehicles in traffic. The more cars are put into service using this AI system, the more accurate Tesla’s AI visualization becomes with regards to recognizing environmental elements.
- Autosteer: Autosteer programs are self-driving programs that allow the vehicle to stay in its designated lane without input from the driver. This makes it much easier for the driver to relax behind the wheel without having to constantly make minute adjustments.
- Summon ability: The summon ability allows a Tesla driver to summon their car from a parking place and have it pull up to pick them up valet-style. While not the most practical of Tesla’s self-driving features, it is arguably one of the coolest.
- Lane departure avoidance: Many accidents on the road are caused by one car inadvertently leaving their lane and striking an adjacent car. Lane departure avoidance software helps avoid this problem by allowing the car to self-correct whenever it senses that the vehicle is leaving its designated lane.
- Blind spot collision warning: Tesla’s blind spot collision warning system uses the car’s cameras and sensors to monitor for parallel obstacles in adjacent lanes and warn drivers if they’re trying to merge into a lane that someone is already occupying. Self-driving software helps eliminate blind spots by putting “eyes” all over the car.
- Speed assist: Using GPS and navigational data, Tesla’s Autopilot system can help keep cars within the legal speed limits for the roads they’re traveling on. This can both help reduce the chance of a fatal road accident and also the chance of having to pay a speeding ticket.
- Automatic lane change: Along with keeping vehicles in their designated lanes, the newest updates to self-driving software at Tesla also allow Tesla’s cars to change lanes automatically without prompting from the driver. This makes it easier for people to avoid missing their turn-offs and other navigational errors.
- Traffic light/stop sign recognition: Now that Tesla’s self-driving systems have matured, the software is now able to recognize traffic lights, stop signs, and other navigational data points. This has made it possible for Tesla’s self-driving software to operate semi-autonomously even in city or residential traffic.
These autopilot features are only the beginning when it comes to Tesla’s software. Each of these software programs was integrated into the Tesla Autopilot system incrementally frmo 2014 through 2020. Given their track record, it’s safe to say that the best is yet to come when it comes to Tesla software innovations in self-driving cars.
The question of whether Tesla’s AI software truly constitutes a self-driving system is somewhat up in the air.
Earlier in this article, we mentioned that Tesla’s Autopilot system is classified by automotive and software engineers as possessing Level 2 autonomy. In self-driving software, there are currently five levels of autonomy from 0 to 5, with 0 being fully operated by a driver and 5 being fully operated by the machine. (Source: JD Power)
So what does this mean for Tesla laymen? It means that at Level 2, Tesla’s Autopilot still requires constant monitoring from the driver. The driver also has to be prepared to override the self-driving system at any time.
This is likely to change in the future as self-driving software becomes even more sophisticated, but for the time being this is the best you’re likely to get out of an autonomous driving experience. Elon Musk and Tesla have repeatedly declared their goals for achieving a fully-autonomous driving system, but this version of Autopilot is probably still years off.
Along with the other features of Autopilot that make Teslas easier and safer to drive, the Autopilot system also features some active standard safety features as part of its self-driving suite. These are the safety features which make Teslas one of the safest car brands in the world (Source: Tesla):
- Automatic emergency braking: Automatic emergency braking is one of the most simple self-driving features that is included in Tesla vehicles, but it’s also one of the most important when it comes to keeping drivers and passengers safe.
- Side Collision Warning System: The Autopilot’s external monitoring system keeps an eye out for obstacles in adjacent lanes and alerts the driver before they have the chance to pull over into them.
- Forward Collision Warning System: Along with automatic emergency braking in the case of an impending collision, Teslas also come standard with a forward collision warning system that lets drivers know that they’re coming up on an obstacle in front and gives them time to react to it.
- Obstacle Awareness: At lower speeds, Tesla’s Autopilot is capable of not only detecting upcoming frontal obstacles, but also decelerating the car to give the driver more time to react to them without having to resort to an emergency braking situation.
In many ways, the safety features of Tesla’s Autopilot try to anticipate the mistakes that can potentially be made by a human operator and reduce their impact. While it’s natural that human drivers become occassionally distracted or tired behind the wheel, Autopilot features help ensure that simple driving mistakes don’t become fatal accidents.
The best part about Tesla’s safety features in Autopilot is that all of these features come standard in new Tesla models. You won’t have to pay extra money for the piece of mind that features like automatic emergency braking can bring.
So if you want Autopilot and you’re trying to decide which Tesla model to buy for it, which one do you go with? Since Autopilot operates the same in all Teslas regardless of the model, you’ll need to look at other features of the models available to figure out which one is the best choice for your household.
Here are just a few of the features of Tesla cars you should look at other than the autopilot when determining which model you should buy:
- Range: Most Tesla models come with multiple options for performance that dictate how much power and range the vehicles have. A tri-motor Cybertruck, for example, can get a range of up to 500 miles, while Tesla’s smaller sedans have a much smaller range before they need charging.
- Seating: The size of your family and how many people you need to carry around will be a major determining factor in which Tesla you purchase. A seven-seater is a better choice for large families than a traditional four-door sedan style vehicle. The Cybertruck also has a large cab for additional seating.
- Aesthetics: While many of the Tesla cars share a similar build and aesthetic vibe, they do have slight cosmetic differences that can shift your purchase decision one way or the other. And some Teslas, like the Model X and the Cybertruck, have unique aesthetic design features like the Model X’s falcon doors and Cybertruck’s Rover-inspired design.
- Price: All Tesla vehicles are relatively expensive compared to conventional vehicles since they integrate a lot of state-of-the-art technology such as electrical energy generation systems and self-driving software. However, some models of Teslas may be a better match for your budget than others.
- Options: Each model in Tesla’s lineup comes with its own subset of cosmetic and performance options that allows you to customize your Tesla however you like. You might end up liking some of the options on one model better than options on another, so these can be a deciding factor in your final purchase.
Since any Tesla car is a serious financial commitment, it’s a good idea to go over the pros and cons of each model during your comparison shopping to see which car fits your lifestyle and budget best. If Autopilot is a deciding factor to you, you can rest assured that as long as you aren’t buying a Tesla that’s eight or nine years old, you’ll have full access to self-driving features.
If you’re not sure which model of Tesla you want to buy yet, the great news is that you can get Autopilot in nearly all of them. While Tesla’s most famous automotive feature is already impressive, consumers should be glad to know that the capabilities of Tesla’s Autopilot system will become more robust as the software continues to receive upgrades.