Tesla vehicles have been making strides in innovation as one of the safest cars in the industry, and one of the features attributing to that is Tesla Autopilot. As the name suggests, the autopilot feature will spot any potential hazards and brake the car automatically. This significantly reduces the chances of an accident, but the feature still has its limitations.
The Tesla Autopilot feature can see anything moving in front of or behind the vehicle. This makes it capable of performing multiple driving tasks safely, including changing lanes and stopping quickly in front of crash hazards that the driver didn’t see.
The following article is a more detailed description of what the Tesla Autopilot can and cannot see. It also includes a description of the different types of hardware the autopilot feature uses and how they can help keep you safe while driving.
How Well Does Tesla Autopilot See?
To see everything going on around it, all Tesla models come equipped with multiple cameras placed all around the vehicle. The typical Tesla model has cameras stationed at the following vehicle locations:
- The front and back of the vehicle
- To the left and right of the vehicle
- The vehicle’s dashboard
Some models might have more or fewer cameras on them depending on how new or old it is, and the type of hardware they use follows the same suit. There have been four different versions of hardware created over the years, with each one being more advanced than the last.
Autopilot Hardware Version 1: Limited Vision
All Tesla models that were built and released before September 2014 had no autopilot features. They did have front and back cameras that allowed the driver to see what was going on around them. But they had no technology that would automatically brake the vehicle if a hazard was passing by it.
The camera quality wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful either. You could see what was going on in front of it, the video just looked a little pixelated.
Autopilot Hardware Version 2: Responding To Visual Hazards
The first Tesla models that had some version of autopilot hardware were released between September 2015 and October 2016. The vehicle still had a front and back camera, but only the front camera had the autopilot hardware embedded. This meant the vehicle could only brake automatically if a hazard appeared in front of it. It would keep the vehicle from rear ending a car in front of it, but nothing else.
The camera quality stayed pretty much the same with this version, but this, along with autopilot safety, would greatly improve over the next few years.
Autopilot Hardware Version 3: Better Vision From Every Angle
The autopilot system on the Tesla models built between October 2016 and August 2017 included massive strides forward for autopilot hardware. It jumped from using only two cameras to using eight cameras. The eight camera hardware is still used today, but only on the more high-end models.
There was a slight upgrade to the hardware between version 3 and version 4, the final version. All of the camera radar systems prior had a range of 525 feet, but Tesla upgraded it to have a range of 558 feet between August 2017 and March 2019. This upgrade propelled the hardware to the almost fully self-driving Tesla we have today.
Lastly, the camera quality improved tremendously. The video was much clearer and crisper, and you could see the finest details of what was happening around the vehicle. This carried over into the final version of the autopilot hardware, along with another big step forward.
Autopilot Hardware Version 4: The Latest Autopilot and Visual Hardware
This version of the autopilot hardware is on all of the Tesla models produced today. It can see what’s going on around the vehicle from all angles and prevent the vehicle from hitting a hazard from any side, if necessary. It can even do menial driving tasks, such as changing lanes or stopping at stop signs and red lights.
However, the biggest improvement on this system is how it’s able to benefit you even when you aren’t driving the Tesla. A recording feature with crystal clear video was added to this autopilot hardware and is especially beneficial in filing accident claims or providing any accident evidence.
Does the Tesla Autopilot Feature Record Everything?
The autopilot cameras are able to record anything that’s happening in or around the vehicle.
The side cameras are positioned underneath the side mirrors and face towards the trunk, while the front camera is right under the rearview mirror and faces the windshield. There’s another camera right above the license plate that records behind the vehicle, and the dashboard camera is built right into the touch screen dashboard that comes with every model.
The cameras can document each incident while the vehicle is moving or stationary, ranging from normal traffic movement to an accident. The information is all documented with the exact time and date that it happened, and you can find the recording in the footage file on the touchscreen dashboard.
Will Tesla Autopilot Help Me See Safety Hazards?
The short answer is yes. The Tesla autopilot will help keep you safer on the road. It’s designed to see things human eyes might miss, such as a car coming out of nowhere or a sudden hazard in the middle of the road. But every system has its flaws, and the Tesla autopilot feature is no exception.
The main issue with Tesla autopilot is that while it can keep the driver safe from the risky behavior of other drivers, it can’t protect the driver from their own risky behavior. The driver themselves must be aware of their surroundings and drive as safely as they would in any other vehicle.
The main purpose of autopilot is to prevent small accidents and to document any that do happen. You should still practice safe driving even with the autopilot system, as the system can only do so much to keep you and your vehicle safe from damage.
Is There Anything the Tesla Autopilot Can’t See?
While the cameras’ radar can detect moving objects and traffic behavior from far away, they aren’t able to detect anything that isn’t moving. The nonmoving objects still show up on the video footage, but they aren’t registered as road hazards or obstacles. This can get dangerous if the driver isn’t aware of their surroundings.
A few nonmoving objects that Tesla autopilot cameras can see but not register as hazards include:
- Parked cars
- Highway signs
- Any road sign aside from a stop sign, such as speed limit or yield signs
- Nonmoving hazards in the middle of the road, such as tire debris
This issue can be solved fairly easily. The driver must be aware of their surroundings and make sure to stay cautious of these road objects. Tesla might develop an autopilot system that is able to detect nonmoving objects in the future, but for now, drivers must still be cautious to avoid unnecessary accidents.
Although the Tesla autopilot feature does help to make the roads safer by seeing hazards drivers can’t see, it’s ultimately up to the driver to be aware of what hazards and obstacles are around them. The technology of the safety features, though highly advanced, can only see and respond to so much. The system won’t prevent every accident from happening, but it will be able to see small hazards and lessen the chances of them damaging the vehicle.