Tesla’s New Autopilot Features – FAQ
Tesla introduced new autopilot features to its Model S fleet of cars via Tesla’s Version 7 software update. Auto Steering, Auto Lane Change, Advanced Collision System are all part of the new autopilot software upgrade that is installed to your car over your home wireless network. It is like installing an app on your smartphone but it is for your car!
To activate autopilot, press the side lever while driving on the interstate. The car takes over steering and sets adaptive cruise mode (adaptive cruise was an existing feature). The speed of the car automatically adjusts based on traffic and it detects the lines in the road to keep your car in the center of the lane. Turn on your signal while autopilot is on and the car automatically changes lanes. It is pretty wild.
See autopilot in action with this quick video:
For more detailed videos try these:
Although the car is steering for you, you are not supposed to take your hands off of the wheel so you can take control in an instant should you need to.
The digital dashboard (Instrument Panel) keeps you up to date on what is happening around you. If the Tesla senses cars or other objects anywhere within 16 feet, the instrument panel shows a signal to alert you. This is particularly helpful for blind spots. The closer your car gets to the object the more intense warning you receive.
After installing the new V7 software with autopilot along with many other features, I feel like I got a new car with the latest in available technology. It is really amazing.
Frequently asked Questions about Tesla Autopilot
There are several questions that I’ve been asked about the Autopilot features. If you have a question, post it in the comments and I will respond.
How does autopilot work?
Teslas that are equipped for autopilot have special hardware and sensors around the car. Tesla describes the equipment as “a forward radar, a forward-looking camera, 12 long-range ultrasonic sensors positioned to sense 16 feet around the car in every direction at all speeds, and a high-precision digitally-controlled electric assist braking system.”
Autopilot works best on well marked road with clear distinct lines. If the lines disappear you can feel your car wobbling while the sensors search for a marker. This has happened to me on interstate bridges (overpasses) and on highways where there are many turn-offs or business driveways where there are no street line marks.
Does autopilot recognize stoplights?
No. While autopilot works on non-interstate roads it is not optimized for the constant start/stop created with stoplights. Tesla cars know the speed limit and can warn you if you are going too far over. The car does not adjust its speed according to posted signs even when using autopilot. If you have autopilot on and a car in front of you stops at a stoplight your car automatically stops, not because of the stoplight, but due to the fact that it sensed the car in front of you stopping.
Does autopilot work at night?
Yes. It actually works very well at night. See my first test drive at night to see how it works… Tesla Autopilot at Night! 1st Test drive.
Does autopilot work with GPS?
No. You cannot enter an address on the Tesla GPS and tell the car to automatically drive you to that location. While Tesla appears to be heading in the direction of a self-driving car, the autopilot features are not designed to automatically drive you from point A to point B (not yet, anyway).
Does every Tesla Model S have autopilot?
No. Tesla began shipping cars equipped with the special sensors and equipment for autopilot in October of 2014. The software became available October 2015. In addition, autopilot features have to be ordered at the time of purchase and not everyone chooses to order the features.
How do you install new Tesla software like autopilot?
The car gives you a message on the control screen that states there is a new software update available. Tap update (or schedule a time to receive the update) and it will automatically download the software over-the-air. You must be on your home wireless network to receive the update.
Post your questions in the comments section and I’ll be happy to respond.