This is Where Tesla Autopilot is Legal

This is Where Tesla Autopilot is Legal

Autopilot has been installed on every Tesla manufactured since 2016, but is it legal? There are many features associated with this system that is designed to make driving easier and safer. However, many people question the legality of Autopilot. Before buying a Tesla, it is important to know what components are legal and which are not.

Tesla Autopilot is legal throughout the United States but is still waiting on regulatory approval in its European markets. While the technology behind the Autopilot is accepted in the United States, that does not mean that the system can drive the car itself. It is essential to understand its limitations. 

Autopilot provides Tesla drivers with a complete system of technological tools aimed at making the act of driving much safer. It also leaves room for future improvement in terms of how cars get from one place to another, including the ability to self-drive. Continue reading to learn about the limitations of Autopilot, including what is currently legal and what features are not. 

What Aspects of Tesla Autopilot Are Legal?

From the outset, it is important to understand that the fully self-driving feature of Autopilot is not currently legal anywhere in the world. That begin said, various functions of Autopilot are permitted in the United States. Europe is currently in the review process of Autopilot to determine its legality. 

The issue is whether or not drivers fully understand the limitations of Autopilot and what it can and cannot do. Regulators want to be sure that drivers are not misled into thinking that the system can drive the car on itself. 

Government officials in the United States have been sufficiently convinced that this is the case, so now it is important to go over the various features of Autopilot and what makes it legal. 

What Does the Law Permit Autopilot to Do?

Autopilot is unique to the automobile industry in that not every function that it is designed for is currently legal. Those components are presently disabled but can be activated at a point in the future when Tesla gets permission to do so. In the meantime, it is important to know what functions can be fully utilized. 

The Role of the Driver

In order for Autopilot to be legal, Tesla had to develop a way to ensure that drivers stay in complete control of the vehicle at all times. To activate the system, drivers must acknowledge that they understand this. Most components of Autopilot will not even work in certain situations, one of them being if the driver is not in his or her seat.

A couple of Autopilot features are legal even though the driver is not directly involved in its functionality. These are activated in only limited situations, such as parking and autosteering. What follows is a summary of some of the main features of Autopilot and its legality. 

Autopilot and Steering

This is a main component of Autopilot. When a driver is on the road, it is important that the vehicle stays in its proper lane. Tesla can now auto-correct steering in certain situations. This feature is legal because the driver is still in control of the car. The vehicle will shift position if it moves outside its intended lane. 

Another feature of auto-steering is being able to change lanes. This is a feature that is used with Navigation on Autopilot. When the system determines that the car needs to begin moving lanes in order to either exit the highway at the appropriate time or to get on the right interchange, Autopilot can do the lane changes on behalf of the driver. 

When talking about this feature, it is important to note that the driver can always take over control. To begin with, the autosteering function will not work unless the driver enables it and the system determines that the vehicle is on an acceptable route. If the driver does not approve of the steering correction at any time, he or she can easily move the wheel in the direction that the vehicle should go. 

Autopilot and Braking

Autopilot is also capable of braking on behalf of the driver. This has been determined to be legal in the United States because, once again, the driver maintains control over the vehicle. There are various situations where Autopilot can automatically brake

One of those situations involves a new feature that allows the system to apply the brakes when the vehicle is approaching either a traffic light or a stop sign. However, drivers must not rely on the system. It is not perfect and can miss lights and stop signs on occasion. 

Auto braking is also useful if the system determines that a collision is imminent. If Autopilot senses that another object or vehicle is going to make impact with the vehicle, it will automatically apply the brakes. 

Autopilot and Acceleration

There are also several features of Autopilot that will allow the vehicle to accelerate on behalf of the driver. This is also legal in the United States as long as the driver enables the feature and remains in control of the vehicle at all times. 

One way that acceleration happens automatically is with the Adaptive Cruise Control feature. Autopilot will slow the vehicle down on the highway when this feature is enabled when other vehicles are determined to be a bit too close. As soon as it is safe to so, Autopilot will then allow the vehicle to gradually accelerate until it is up to the desired speed. 

How About the Legality of Navigation with Autopilot?

When many people think of Autopilot, they become excited about the navigation feature. After all, this is where the concept of a fully self-driven vehicle comes into the picture in the first place. While that aspect of the system is not legal, many of the components of Navigation with Autopilot are. 

With this function, you can set a route directly into your Autopilot. It will then map out the best route for you and help you get on your way. It is designed for highway driving, and this is why. Your Autopilot will actually determine for you:

  • The best on-ramps to take
  • When to exit
  • Which interchanges to get on

With those three concepts in mind, other features of Autopilot can become engaged. These include:

  • Automatic lane changes
  • Autosteering
  • Adaptive cruise control

These features are activated in order to ensure a seamless driving experience. It is meant to conserve fuel and provide a safer journey at the same time. This is what Autopilot was created to do. As long as the driver is at the center of it all, the feature remains legal. 

What About the Fully Self-Driven Feature of Autopilot?

You may have heard that Tesla cars can drive themselves. This is a concept that was brought about by the addition of Autopilot. While the technology might be installed on the vehicle, it is not legal anywhere in the world. So, at this time, you are not able to have your Autopilot drive without you in the driver’s seat. That is simply not a possibility. 


It is interesting to note that Tesla actually incorporated Autopilot into the production of all its vehicles before it was even legal. Now that the system is legal in the United States, drivers can easily activate all the various features installed on their car. At the same time, there are limitations to what drivers can do, which this post has covered in cursory detail.

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The articles here on 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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