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What is the difference between Tesla Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability?

Understanding the different options and setting the right expectations will lead to better experiences with Tesla Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability

With data collected from over 3 billion miles driven by Tesla owners on Autopilot, Tesla is arguably the leader in self-driving technology. Elon Musk has always been bullish on the outlook of autonomous vehicles, and has made bold claims that Tesla will deliver a full self-driving car in the very near future. While some might think that the current naming of Tesla’s driving assistance features implies that the vehicle can navigate the roads automatically, that is currently not the case. Drivers need to be fully engaged and aware of their surroundings to use these features safely and properly.

Tesla has three categories of driver assistance features which includes Active Safety Features, Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability. These features use cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar to see and sense the environment around the car and assist the driver with the most demanding parts of driving. Active Safety Features come standard with all new Tesla cars, whereas Autopilot is available at an extra cost. Over the years, Tesla has released new features and changed its Autopilot options and pricing numerous times.

In this post we will go through which features are included in each category as well as a brief review of our own experience using some of the features included in the options below.


Active Safety Features are included on all Tesla vehicles built after September 2014 and are designed to anticipate and react to potentially dangerous situations to reduce the possibility of a collision. These features can be turned on or off and different settings can be saved for each driver profile.

Automatic Emergency Braking: Engages the brakes when cars or obstacles are detected in front of the Tesla to reduce the impact of a collision.

Front Collision Warning: Alerts the driver with visual and audible warnings when there’s the potential for a frontal collision with a slow moving or stationary car.

Side Collision Warning: Alerts the driver with visual and audible warnings when there’s a car or obstacles approaching the side of the Tesla.

Obstacle Aware Acceleration: Automatically reduces acceleration when an obstacle is detected in front of the Tesla while driving at low speeds. This helps to reduce the chance of a collision if you accidentally press on the acceleration pedal.

Blind Spot Monitoring: Alerts the driver with an audible warning when a vehicle or obstacle is in the blind spot when attempting to change lanes.

Lane Departure Avoidance: Operates when the vehicle is traveling at 40-90 mph and alerts the driver if the vehicle is drifting out of or near the edge of the driving lane and the turn signal is off. You can choose to have your Tesla ‘warn' you by vibrating the steering wheel or ‘assist' you by automatically steering the car back into the lane.

Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance: An enhanced version of Lane Departure Avoidance, this feature steers the Tesla back into the driving lane when it detects that the car is leaving its lane and there could be a collision or if the car is close to the edge of the road.


Autopilot is an advance driver assistance system designed to reduce fatigue by helping drivers steer, accelerate and brake automatically within a lane. Even though the name implies the need for minimal effort, Tesla continues to stress that current Autopilot features requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and be fully aware of their surroundings. In no way does Autopilot turn a Tesla into a self-driving car.

Traffic-Aware Cruise Control: Meant to be used on highways and freeways, this feature matches the speed of your car to that of the surrounding traffic.

Autosteer: Builds upon Traffic-Aware Cruise Control by detecting lane markings and the presence of vehicles and objects to steer your Tesla within a clearly marked lane.

NOTE: Tesla had also previously offered Enhanced Autopilot, which included some of the features now only offered with Full Self-Driving such as Autopark and Summon amongst others.


Full Self-Driving Capability (FSD) includes a set of features that are one step up from Autopilot, but still requires the full attention of the driver to operate. These features will help you perform tasks such as parking and changing lanes with minimal interaction, and there is the promise of over-the-air enhancements as self-driving features evolve. FSD is offered as an option and is currently priced at $10,000 USD.

Navigate on Autopilot (Beta): Automatically exits at off-ramps and interchanges based on your navigation route and can also make lane changes designed to prepare for exits and avoid slow moving vehicles to minimize the driving time to your destination.

Auto Lane Change: When driving on the freeway, this feature will move the Tesla to the next lane in the direction indicated by the turn signal. It will also position your car in the optimal lane to prepare for merges and exits while overtaking slower cars.

Autopark: Automatically parks the Tesla in both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces and alerts you to available parking spots when you are driving under 15 mph on a public road or under 10 mph in a parking lot.

Summon: Activated by the Tesla App, your parked car will maneuver around objects such as pedestrians and shopping carts to come find you in a parking lot.

Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control (Beta): Automatically slows the car to a stop at traffic lights and stop signs even if the light is green, unless the driver overrides the system. The driver has to tap on the Autopilot stalk or the accelerator pedal to continue through the intersection.

Autosteer on City Streets (Expected in 2021): Scheduled to be release later this year, this feature will perform automatic lane changes on city streets.

Discover Tesla’s Experience with Active Safety Features and Autopilot

When used properly, we found Autopilot to be easy to use and effective in making our drive less stressful. Naturally, we were nervous using these features at first, so we started off testing the features during off peak traffic periods. As our confidence grew and we became more familiar with the features, we found ourselves really enjoying the overall experience.

As Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability doesn’t come cheap and some of the features are still in beta mode or have yet to be released, it’s recommended that you take the time to understand what you’ll be getting before you spend considerable money on the upgrade.

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