A full review of Tesla Autopilot and Full Self Driving package including its costs, features & how it works. Read this detailed guide on what it is and whether it’s worth it.

Interier of Tesla Cabin
Photo by Bram Van Oost on Unsplash

$10,000 — that’s the new price of Tesla’s Full Self driving package. But what does it do exactly? And it Tesla’s autopilot worth the $10,000 price tag?

I answer these questions in this full review of the Tesla autopilot as these are questions that I wrestled with when I was first looking to purchase my 2020 Model Y.

Tesla has one of the most advanced autopilot programs in the automotive industry. But when it comes to describing exactly what this self driving program entails, Tesla’s autopilot description isn’t the most comprehensive.

So in this article, I’ll be doing a full breakdown of exactly what constitutes the Tesla Autopilot & Full Self Driving product, and whether or not it’s worth the $10k price tag that it currently demands.

Collage of Tesla driving pics
Tesla Autopilot

What is Tesla Autopilot?

As of November 2020, when you buy a Tesla with their Full Self Driving upgrade, your vehicle comes equipped with the following capabilities.

  1. Lane Departure Assist
  2. Emergency Braking
  3. Traffic Aware Cruise Control or (TACC)
  4. Auto Steer
  5. Navigate with Autopilot (w/Auto Lane Change)
  6. The Autopark Function
  7. Summon and Smart Summon
  8. And the newly upcoming — Auto Steer on City Streets
Tesla autopilot features chart
Autopilot features chart

Now a couple things to note here before we move on. The first 2 features I listed do not technically fall under the Autopilot category — they’re actually standard safety features that come included with all Tesla’s period.

But since we are talking about the full suite of computerized auto driving capabilities that Teslas offer to augment and enhance the driving experience for the user, I felt that I would be remised if I left those two out — so I’ve included them here anyways.

Tesla autopilot features chart 2
Autopilot chart 2

Also that last feature under the full self driving upgrade — the Auto Steer on city streets — is in an early beta release that’s been limited to only a handful of lucky Tesla drivers so far. So the rest of us are still waiting on that enhancement to come to the masses later on this year, according to Tesla’s website.

So with that said, let’s take a closer look at each of these features individually to understand exactly what the Autopilot and Full Self Driving capability truly is.

Automatic Lane Departure Assist 

Lane departure feature image
Lane departure assist image

Starting with our safety features, all Teslas, come equipped with Automatic Lane Departure Assist — which, if you turn on, will attempt to correct your course, by providing automatic steering intervention, when you happen to start drifting over an adjacent lane marker, traveling between 40 and 90 mph on any major roadways with clearly visible lane markings.

Automatic Emergency Braking

Emergency stop feature image
Emergency braking image

In addition, all Teslas also come standard with emergency braking, which means, when the Tesla’s cameras, sensors and internal systems, detect an imminent frontal crash that’s considered unavoidable, Automatic Emergency Braking is applied so that the brakes reduce your speed and thereby the severity of the impact. This won’t help you avoid the crash — but it might be able to lessen the degree of personal injury you could sustain.

Now you don’t have to have autopilot on for these two safety features to work — they are actually meant to be on when you are actively driving.

Autopilot Features

Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC)

Moving on to our Autopilot features, the first capability is called Traffic Aware Cruise Control, or TACC for short.

Now this is very similar to the standard cruise control that almost every standard car comes with — you can set it at a certain speed by pressing down once on the drive stalk and the car will maintain that speed for you without you having to keep your foot on the gas pedal. You do, of course, have to still steer the car and make lane changes on your own.

Traffic aware cruise control image
TACC image

However, one major difference in Tesla’s Traffic Aware Cruise Control is exactly what the name states — it is traffic aware. This means that this cruise control has the ability to vary its speed and adjust its velocity when it meets upcoming traffic.

For example, when it approaches a slow car, it’ll brake, match & maintain the appropriate speed behind that vehicle as long as that traffic is present, and then speed up back to your designated cruising speed when that traffic has moved away.

Not only do you not have to step on the gas pedal in this TACC mode, but you also don’t have to touch your brakes either — it’ll do all of that for you automatically. This is a major difference and major convenience from the normal cruise control you usually see in the other older cars.

Auto Steer

Next, we have Auto Steer, which is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a car.

Autosteer image
Autosteer image

Using it’s camera system, the Tesla recognizes lane markers on the road and actively steers the car, to keep you in the center of your lane — as you are driving down the road. This Autosteer system is sophisticated enough to handle curves, and hills and just about every type of road condition, as long as the lane markers are clearly established and visible.

So when you combine both Traffic Aware Cruise Control and Auto Steering, you get the standard autopilot feature that comes included with every Tesla vehicle.

Combined autopilot image
Combined Autopilot features

Now honestly, that is really good in and of itself, and even if you never upgraded to the Full Self Driving feature — the base Autopilot would still make it a really awesome driving experience for you. But now, let’s review the full gamut of capabilities you get when you upgrade to the full self driving option.

Full Self Driving Package

Navigate with autopilot image
Navigate with Autopilot on Highways image

Navigate with Autopilot

The first enhancement you get in the upgrade package is called Navigate with Autopilot, which enables fully autonomous driving from a highway on-ramp to an off-ramp, including navigating interchanges and overtaking slower cars.

To take advantage of this, you first set a destination in your navigation, engage in the Full Self Driving mode by pulling down twice on the drive stalk, which activates both TACC and Auto Steer — then select the “Navigate with Autopilot” option on your map.

After that, starting from the point you enter the on-ramp of a freeway, your Tesla will automatically drive itself onto the highway, make the appropriate lane changes to get into the right lane, automatically overtake slow traffic and eventually exit at the right off ramp when you are ready to exit the freeway. 

Tesla console screen image
Navigate with Autopilot changing lanes image

Now this is where it really feels like you’re in the movies and riding in a self driving car. As the Tesla is driving in this mode, it’ll automatically signal to you that it is about to make a lane change, then assess the situation and when there is enough clearance to make the move, proceed to make the lane change — all without human intervention.

You do, of course, still need to keep you hands on the steering wheel otherwise, it’ll flash the warning and remind you to do so. But as long as you are resting you hands on the wheel, it will fully drive itself from on-ramp, to off-ramp.

Now, if this feature gets you really excited but also a little scared, because you’re not sure if you want to fully trust the car to drive itself on the freeway yet — there is a safety measure you can implement with this feature.

You can set it to where the Tesla will require your confirmation on every lane change it suggests before it makes it, so that you still have some control of when the car makes these moves.

Once this safety measure is turned on, you have to physically confirm the lane change it wants to make by hitting the turn signal stalk, otherwise it will continue to just press forward in its lane and not make the move. It’s a good middle ground between driving the car yourself and fully trusting the car to make all the decisions on the highway.

Autopark Function

Next we have the Autopark function.

Autopark feature image
Autopark function image

Here’s how this one works. When driving slowly, approximately 10 miles per hour or slower, in a parking lot or neighborhood street — the Tesla Autopilot feature will use the ultrasonic sensors and GPS to determine when Autopark has detected a parking spot. When a potential parking space is identified, the touchscreen will display a parking icon.

Autopark display image
Autopark function image 2

And all you have to do is hit this icon and the auto park function will take over. When enabled, the Autopark system will attempt to determine an appropriate path to move the vehicle into the parking spot through a series of pivots and turns — all utilizing the aforementioned sensors and GPS.

And the system is sophisticated enough to handle both lane parking and parallel parking. Now, it isn’t fully foolproof and there are times where it’ll attempt the parking job and fail, meaning you’ll have to take manual control and complete the job yourself. But having tried it a few times myself — I can say that it generally works… most of the time.


The next feature in the Full Self Driving suite is Summon.

Now there are two flavors of this feature — Regular Summon and Smart Summon.

Regular summon feature image
Regular Summon

Regular Summon

Regular summon allows you to move your vehicle directly forward or directly backward from your mobile device when you are standing within range of your vehicle. This is a handy tool for when you are either stuck in a really tight parking spot and you want to pull out your car before you get in, or if you wanted to move the car into a particular location — like your garage without having to directly driving it into the spot yourself. This is Regular Summon.

Smart summon feature image
Smart Summon in action

Smart Summon

Smart Summon takes this one step further by having the car actually come meet you — from it’s parking spot.

First, you have to be within 65 meters of your vehicle, in order to activate this feature. Secondly you enter the Tesla App on your phone and activate the Smart Summon feature and hold down the “Go To Target” button.

Then, your Tesla will flash the hazard lights once, fold in the mirrors, if they are not already folded and then proceed to use its sensors and GPS system to pull itself out of its parking spot, navigate around pathways and obstacles as needed, to bring itself within a couple of yards from your position.

This is useful for moving your Tesla out of a tight parking spot, or through puddles in the parking lot, or helping to bring your vehicle closer to you when your hands are full of groceries or packages.

Auto Stop

Next we have the Auto Stop at stop signs and stop lights feature.

Autostop feature image
Autostop image

This one is pretty self explanatory. When your Tesla is operating on Autopilot mode within local roads, this enhancement allows the car to recognize stop signs and stop lights and appropriately slows and stops the vehicle when it approaches one of these traffic elements.

And to get going again on Autopilot after it has stopped at a stop light, you just give it a little bit of gas (I mean electricity), and the Autopilot will take over again — accelerating and maintaining the appropriate traffic aware cruise speed, you’ve set before.

Autosteer on City Streets

And lastly, as you guys may have heard, as of October 20th 2020, Tesla released a new update to the Full Self Driving suite called Autosteer on City Streets — which was only released to a small handful of lucky drivers to first test out the feature, before rolling it out to all Tesla Full Self Driving owners.

Navigate on city streets image
Autosteer on city streets

This update allows your tesla vehicle to now autonomously stop and go at intersections, make full turns, and navigate along city streets just like you would navigate on the highway — lane changes and all. At least that’s the rumor — we won’t know for 100% sure until this limited testing version get approved and rolled out to all Tesla owners.

This, by the way, was the catalyst for the Full Self Driving upgrade to be increased in price from $8,000 to the now $10,000 — in anticipation of this new enhancement to be released by the end of this year, in 2020.

Is Telsa Autopilot Worth the Cost?

So now that you know what the Full Self Driving product entails — is it worth the $10,000 upgrade price or is simply having the standard Autopilot sufficient?

Well, in my analysis, I approached this question from 3 different perspectives.

  1. What is the value of the utility that I get from the Full Self Driving feature?
  2. How often would I be using these features?
  3. How valuable is it to me — in other words, how badly do I want to have these features and experience the bleeding edge of autonomous driving?
Autopilot graphic
Autopilot Clip

Well, when I looked at the suite of features from the Full Self Driving upgrade, it was definitely useful.

But what I’ve found is that because I have to actively monitor the system as it’s driving and keep my hands on the steering wheel at all times to satisfy the warning system — the amount of effort and energy I expend while in the Full Self Driving mode is nearly the same as if I was driving the car myself.

And while I’d like to be able to say that I can completely trust the full Autopilot suite from Tesla and prefer to simply not pay attention when it’s on — the truth is, we’re not quite there there yet from both a capability or even a legal standpoint… we’re very close, but not quite there.

So I always keep razor sharp focus when I’m behind the wheel of my Model Y, even in the Full Self Driving mode. This means from a utility standpoint, the value here is not really that high.

As far as how often I use it — given that we are currently in a global pandemic and nearly all of us are operating in some kind of remote or work from home situation, I can honestly say that I don’t really drive the car very much on a weekly basis.

The use of my Model Y is limited to the regular grocery runs we do every week, as well as taking my daughter to daycare each day — a 20 min round trip.

And since I take only local roads for the majority of my drives — the standard Autopilot features are really all that I need to get me back and forth on these short trips. So for this 2nd criteria — again the value of the Full Self Driving package is not that high.

Lastly — the question is how much did I really want to experience this new Full Self Driving technology and how badly did I want it included in my vehicle’s features.

Well, I’ve always been an avid tech enthusiast, and I’ve always been a early adopter of technology. From the latest iPhone to the newest smart appliance — it’s been a bit of an obsession of mine for the past 15 years.

So if I’m being really truthful, I really wanted the Full Self Driving feature. I thought it was incredibly cool and I wanted to experience this new advancement in driving technology, every time I got into my Tesla vehicle.

And at the end of the day, that’s what pushed me over the edge on getting this upgrade for our new Model Y.

But if you look at this $10,000 upgrade from a purely pragmatic standpoint, I’d say it’s hard to justify paying such a hefty add-on to your vehicle — for the suite of capabilities it currently offers now (as of November 2020).

But if you are an avid tech enthusiast like me and geek out over the latest technology advancements, then these features certainly wouldn’t disappoint you— I get a joy from driving this car every time I engage the Autopilot feature.

Wifi connected graphic
Wifi image

The other really important thing to consider is that getting the Full Self Driving upgrade now means every new update or progression of the software suite that comes along, in the near future — would automatically push to your vehicle, through the over-the-air updates, at no additional cost to you.

It’s just like your iPhone — as new software versions get released, they are pushed to your phone for free and after the new versions are installed, you get new functionality that enhances the utility of your iPhone.

The same thing happens with your Tesla — you simply connect your vehicle to your home Wi-Fi network and when you have a new software update, it automatically downloads and installs the new version seamlessly.

So if you consider how much potential advancement there might be in the autopilot and full self driving program, and how many updates there might be within the next couple of years, it might be worth getting the upgrade now — as opposed to trying to add it on later (which you can do), but you might be subject to a higher market price for that software upgrade than what it’s currently selling at now.

One last thing to note here — when you purchase the Full Self Driving upgrade, this purchase is tied to the VIN number of your vehicle. This means if you sell the car, the Full Self Driving capability is transferred to the new owner — it doesn’t stay with the account/person that originally purchased it. So if you end up selling your old Tesla and buying a new one — you’ll have to make sure you also get the Full Self Driving upgrade on that new vehicle as well.

So that wraps up this comprehensive guide on Tesla Autopilot, its features, cost, a full review, and whether it’s worth it in the end.

The Full Self Driving package was worth it for me, personally — but everyone’s situation is different so you’ll have to make that decision for yourself when it comes time for you guys to purchase your Teslas.

By the way, if you’re ready to purchase the Model Y or any other Tesla model soon, you can take advantage of my Tesla referral code to get 1,000 free Super Charger Miles credited to your account — simply by clicking this link or entering this code (daniel63240) on the reservation form when you order any Tesla vehicle on their website.

Daniel's referral link
Daniel’s Tesla Referral Code — Get 1,000 Free Super Charger Miles!

I hope this article on Tesla Autopilot really helped you guys to make a decision on the Full Self Driving upgrade, if you’re planning on buying a Tesla soon.

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The content here is strictly the opinion of Daniel’s Brew and is for entertainment purposes only. It should not be considered professional financial, investment or career advice. Investing and career decisions are personal choices that each individual must make for themselves in accordance with their situation and long term plans. Daniel’s Brew will not be held liable for any outcome as a result of anyone following the opinions provided in this content.

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