A Detailed Comparison Between Tesla Autopilot (Enhanced), Autopilot and Tesla Full Self-Driving System
Contrary to popular belief, electric cars are not a recent invention (Invention of 21st century). In fact electric cars were invented as far back as the early 19th century (1828), when Anyos Jedlik got the revolutionary idea of putting an electric motor in a car, granted that ‘the car’ cannot fit a single adult (it was a model car) in it. It was attached to the nearby direct current supplying generator via wires, it was still the world’s first electric car. Back then, like with everything else( lighting, machines, heating, etc.), electricity was deemed to be the energy source for all the future mode of transports, even the vehicular land speed record in 1900 was held by an electric car.
Unfortunately for electric car manufacturers of that time and fortunately for the masses, the benefits of the Internal Combustion engine were soon discovered by masses. The fact that one can fill the tank and drive wherever he wants, no need for electric track or overhead cables (like in trams) and the fact that IC engines provided more power (speed) meant that a person could drive wherever he wants faster than electric cars. Also, people discovered that petrol was relatively easy to store than electricity (at that time) and there was no need to swap batteries (at that time rechargeable batteries were not invented), and thus the electric car faded into obscurity.
Later in the 20th century, people realized that petroleum supplies were not limited and will exhaust within the next century and the fact that using fossil fuel result in severe environmental pollution. Then the effect of harmful substances, in the exhaust fumes of the cars, were brought to the public’s notice. The oxides of sulfur, lead, cadmium released from the cars were not only damaging our environment, but our bodies too are affected. The most harmful of them was lead which was not only carcinogenic but also caused psychological disorders (such as irritation and anger issues) upon being inhaled regularly. Even though petrol used in cars now is highly refined and unleaded, petrol still has a major contribution to health deterioration and environmental pollution. All this lead to the search for alternate energy resources for our vehicles.
The electric cars came back to popularity in the late 2000s due to Tesla, the first manufacturer of electric cars to mass-produce them. Although, there were several electric car manufacturers before Tesla, they were ‘niche’ manufacturers who manufactured individual cars on order, while Tesla is now a ‘mainstream’ manufacturer who brought electric cars to masses., ‘no one did what Tesla did’.
Apart from providing an alternative fuel-based technology (electricity to charge the battery which drives electric motors) to reduce environmental pollution and the running costs, Tesla cars are loaded with technology. Innovative features such as –
The dashboard of the car being deprived of any physical buttons and instead, a large touchscreen is available for operating all the functions of the car. There is no key to unlock the car instead of a ‘Tesla Card’ (credit card shaped key) or a lightly pressing the car-shaped key fob or a mobile app are used to unlock the car. The car can be started remotely by mobile app for preheating or precooling the cabin. A nationwide (In the USA only) network of Tesla charging stations, especially in all the major cities of USA. Charging options called ‘superchargers’ which would even charge an old 2012 Tesla S model as fast as 50% in 20 minutes
One such highly sophisticated technology in Tesla cars is ‘Tesla Autopilot’ and its improvements.
Tesla autopilot is a host of driving-aids (driver assistance technology) offered by Tesla in their cars. These were ‘optional extra’ that a buyer has to pay for while buying his car.
Period of production: Originally offered between 2014 to 2016
Hardware used: It used Tesla’s ‘Hardware 1’ for driving assistance, which included -a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, 360° ultrasonic sensors, Global Positioning System (GPS) and Automatic high/low beam headlights.
- Adaptive Cruise Control
‘Cruise Control’ is a technology that automatically maintains the car at a constant speed set by the user, without any input.
Adaptive cruise control is an improvement over cruise control in which not only the car maintains a steady speed but also maintains a steady, safe distance from the car in front, the driver chooses this steady safe distance from the options provided by the car.
This is achieved by the use of the radar, which senses the distance of the car in front and the system breaks and throttles the car to maintain a steady distance. The radar sends over a thousand pulses per minute to ensure that even sudden braking by the car in-front does not cause any harm to the drivers and the car.
- Lane centring/ auto-steering
It is a system designed to keep the car centred in the lane by automatically steering the car if it defects from the centerline of the lane, without any input from the user. This technology uses the windshield mounted camera of the car to ensure that the visible centerline of the lane is at the centre of the hood of the car, adjusting steering whenever the camera detects that the centerline has defected.
- Autopilot Alerts
Tesla car issues alert to the driver( in the form of white flashing light on the dashboard and loud repeated beeping noise) what the system detects a danger approaching, such as rapidly advancing car from back or the sudden reduction in the gap between the car and the car in front. Sometimes alerts are issued when the system detects no activity from the user (such as steering input, throttle, brake, music track change, etc.). In such cases, the car alerts the driver to wake up, and it disables its autopilot features for a while, forcing the driver to concentrate on the road and wake up in the process. Depending upon the speed of the car, the interval of inactivity after which alert is issued can range from ten minutes to one minute.
- Automatically steered lane changes
If while driving the car, the driver activates his turn signal then the car would automatically steer and centre itself in the next lane without any steering input from the driver after checking whether any other car is nearby or not with the help of its sensors.
- Collision Detection
A Tesla can detect a ‘large’ obstacles in its way and would immediately brake itself, without the driver’s input, to avoid a possible collision with the obstacle. The speed of the car and the distance of the object from the car (within a 16-foot range of the radar) determine the intensity of the break-force applied. If the distance is large and the speed of the car is low, tesla would simply decrease its speed by applying breaks a little bit. On the other hand, if the speed of the car is very high and the distance is immediate, the car will instantly shut down its electric motors and apply full break-force deploying the airbags in the process to prevent any serious injury to the driver.
Summon is the most popular of the innovative features that Tesla introduced in the car industry. The owner does not need to approach and unlock his car if his car is parked at a distance parallel to his current position; he could ‘summon’ the car to his position, which means that the car itself would drive to his position by using its camera, sensors, GPS positioning system, and navigational maps to find the quickest straight path to the driver and clear the nearby obstacles. A driver can choose the maximum distance from which he can summon the car and the speed of the car during ‘a summon’, from the options provided in the car’s settings. Not only it is a convenient feature but also it is a ‘cool trick’ to pull off to impress others
Another popular feature of Tesla cars is their ability to park themselves. By using its camera, sensors, radar and GPS sensors, the car can parallel park and perpendicular park itself. While parallel parking can be achieved by moving in a straight line, it is the perpendicular parking feature of Tesla cars that amazes people. To park parallel from any angle requires a lot of steering input and dexterity by the drivers, so it is natural for people to be amazed upon seeing a car being able to do it by itself. One can also set the tolerances for the car during auto-parking, such as setting the front and back bumper clearance and side clearance with walls or surrounding cars, as well the maximum distance at which it can park itself.
- Automatically dimming headlights
A Tesla can automatically switch its headlights from high beam to low beam if its sensors detect a car approaching in front, this further reduces the risk of collision due to glare.
Enhanced Autopilot was an upgrade (‘enhanced’) over the original Autopilot system of Tesla. This upgrade, like Autopilot, was an optional package that one can select for his Tesla car. This upgrade wasn’t offered for the older Tesla cars with ‘Hardware 1’ package since the older hardware lacked the computational power as well as resources (sensors) for the new features included in the Enhanced Autopilot.
Period of production: Originally offered between 2016 to February 2019
Hardware used: Hardware 2.0
Major upgrades were made over the Tesla’s former ‘Hardware 1.0’ package which included-
Increase in the resolution of the forward-facing camera, Eight new 360° surround cameras( including the forward-facing one), increase in the range of forward-facing radar, 12 new 360° ultrasonic censors with increased range, a more accurate Global Positioning System (GPS).
The major change was the inclusion of more powerful processors, for computing data included as the ‘brain’ of the car for executing ‘Artificial Intelligence’ programs and autopilot tasks.
Hardware 2.5 was just a slight increase over the Hardware 2.0 which included
-Further increased range of the radar and sensors, increase in the computing power of the car i.e., more ‘brains’ for the car with additional Artificial Intelligence ingrained into the car’s programming.
A major change was the introduction of ‘dashcam’ (A dedicated camera for recording activities both inside and outside the car as an evidence in case of a mis happening) along with a new ‘selfie’ camera located in the rearview mirror (which is said to be dormant i.e., it offers no functionality)
Upgrades feature over ‘Autopilot’ driving features –
The features of the Autopilot were tweaked for performance and speed. The collision detection system can now detect obstacles over a longer range, the automatic braking was now much more immediate, the car can now be summoned from longer distance, the automatic lane changes were quicker and with additional features, the Adaptive Cruise control can now keep much fartherer and shorter distance from the car in front, etc. Simply the existing features of the car were refined and a few new features were added such as –
- Artificial Intelligence
With AI programming being embedded in Tesla’s core functionality, the car can now ‘recognize’ the object approaching the car as being a truck, another car, motorbike, animal and a person. It can even distinguish between the different animals approaching it.
The new 360° surround cameras do it in the car and the new surround ultrasonic sensors working in tandem with the advanced processors of the car.
Several other intelligent features of the car include – analyzing the driving style of the driver and to suggest little changes to improve mileage, automatically tuning in to the favourite radio station of the driver, options to customize the entire interface of the car, voice recognition, etc.
- Sentry mode
Limited to the cars having ‘Hardware 2.5’ and up only, this feature protects a person’s car from threats. If one’s Tesla is standing in parking and it senses a person approaching it, it would turn its 360° cameras along with the dashcam camera on and begin recording. In case the person doesn’t unlock the car (i.e., he is not the owner or related to the owner) and lingers around the car longer than needed or leans on the hood, a warning message informing that cameras are watching him would flash on the centre console screen. If the person touches the car after this point, the car will go into ‘Alarm’ state and would start beeping, simultaneously broadcasting the live feed from the cameras to the owner and the concerned authorities. Indeed, a true sentry in every sense.
- Enhanced automatic lane changes
In ‘Autopilot’ the user has to turn the indicator stalk to perform the lane change but with enhanced autopilot when a car ‘senses’ that a lane change is needed, a simple ‘confirmation’ from the car is issued to the driver seeking permission to change lanes. Recent updates have introduced the option of disabling this conformation message; thus, if chosen, the car can change lanes whenever it senses a need to do it.
- Navigate on autopilot
Navigate on autopilot is the most prominent feature of Enhanced Autopilot. It is an amalgamation of all the features listed above, properly executed by the car as and when needed. By using navigate on autopilot feature, a person can navigate to his destination without even touching the steering wheel of the car most of the time, throughout the journey.
If the driver wishes to use this feature, he turns the feature on from the options and feeds the destination in the car’s map. This feature can only be turned on while driving on the highway and the certain ones whose detailed information is available in the Tesla database.
Lane centring feature ensures that the car does not divert away from the lane and automatic lane steering makes swift lane changes whenever an exit has to be taken or when the car ‘ senses’ slow traffic in the current lane with the nearby lane being cleared.
Along the way adaptive cruise control, collision detection and automated steering systems work together to clear any obstacles on the road and to avoid any collisions, while the car is reading its position on the map, choosing and taking the best possible routes to the destination. Meanwhile, alerts are issued to the driver if the system notices a prolonged lack of response from the driver.
On reaching the destination, the car informs the driver that his destination has been reached. This feature only works when a highway connects the destination and the start points.
Full Self Driving (FSD)
FSD was offered as a further paid upgrade to the ‘Enhanced Autopilot’. The upgrades were made mostly to the software of the car and the car used either Hardware 2.0 or Hardware 2.5 as the previously enhanced autopilot.
The main focus of this update was to make ‘driving as driverless as possible’. Thus, the Navigate on autopilot was tweaked to work inside cities, and a host of other functions were added to make driverless navigation inside cities possible.
Period of production: From 2016
Hardware used: Hardware 2.0 and 2.5 (Hardware 3.0 expected in newer models)
The February 2019 Announcement and Changes
As one can guess by reading the above features, there wasn’t any significant difference between FSD and Enhanced Autopilot. Although FSD’s Navigate on Autopilot feature was tweaked to work exceptionally well in cities, it wasn’t a ‘distinct’ feature that would force a buyer to opt for FSD package. Thus, in order to make FSD more distinct and attractive option (and maybe avoid any confusion between several autopilots), Tesla made some important announcements such in February such as-
The ‘Enhanced Autopilot Feature’ was not available anymore. Instead, a new ‘autopilot’ was offered to the buyers and the inclusion of more powerful, more sensor-laden Hardware 3.0 in the newer cars.
The New Tesla Autopilot or Autopilot 2019
From March 2019 tesla begin offering new ‘autopilot’, features for purchase, in its cars. Basically, this new Autopilot is the stripped-down version of the ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ and even the earliest ‘Autopilot’.
It is the basic Tesla package with only – Auto-steer/ Automatic Lane change, Collision detection, Auto-dimming Headlights, and Adaptive Cruise Control incorporated.
While the advanced features of Tesla such as Summon, Auto-park, Navigate on Autopilot, were reserved for the FSD system. Thus the feature that defined a ‘Tesla Car’ was stripped from Autopilot and were included in the FSD package only.
The new Full Self Driving feature
Apart from getting the full suite of features available in the ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ – Summon, Auto-park, Automatic lane changer, etc. The new FSD system is promised to have an entirely new host of features, operational by the end of 2019. Some of them are –
- Stop Signs and traffic light recognition – Tesla car will be able to identify stop signs and traffic lights and would be able to go or stop in response to them. The system will use its cameras along with living traffic feeds from maps to achieve this feat.
- Automatic city street driving – Navigate on Autopilot would be made to work exceptionally well on the streets – with it recognizing the owner’s house, important buildings, live accessing traffic condition from the area and would choose the least crowded route accordingly, all without any input from the driver.
These upgrades would make Tesla cars the first mass-produced fully functional, self-driving car in the world. Thus making Tesla cars to be ‘Fully self-driving’ cars in the real sense of the word.
The Autopilots offered across variants and models
|Model||Model Year||Hardware||Autopilot||Enhanced Autopilot||Fully Self Driving||Autopilot 2019||FSD,2019|
|2016- July 2017||Hardware 2.0||N/A||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|July 2017 –Feb 2019||Hardware 2.5||N/A||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Feb, 2019 –||Hardware 3.0||N/A||N/A||N/A||Yes||Yes|
|Model 3||2017 – Feb 2019||Hardware 2.5||N/A||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Feb 2019 –||Hardware 3.0||N/A||N/A||N/A||Yes||Yes|
|Model X||2015-2016||Hardware 1.0||Yes||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|2016- July 2017||Hardware 2.0||N/A||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|July 2017 –Feb 2019||Hardware 2.5||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Feb, 2019 –||Hardware 3.0||N/A||N/A||N/A||Yes||Yes|
Tesla Autopilots are great driving aids to the prospective buyers of the car. These driving assistance technology not only aid the driver while driving but can also avoid severe accidents, saving the life of the driver in the process. Although these features come at a price, the price spent on them is worth it. After all, what price can one put on one’s life and convenience?