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What are the differences between Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features?

Thinking about buying a Tesla but don’t understand all of the self-driving options? We’ve got you covered.

tesla supercharging station
Image: Tesla

When you think of electric vehicles, one of the first names to come to mind is always Tesla. They’re a force in the industry, and the tech press is always talking about them, for good or ill.

One of the things constantly discussed is Tesla’s driver aid systems, Autopilot and Full Self-Driving. The thing is, sometimes they’re confusingly used to talk about the other system, or put under the blanket term of Autopilot, which is but also isn’t quite correct. See, confusing!

Even more confusingly, the current Autopilot was called Enhanced Autopilot until 2019. That’s when Tesla moved some of the more advanced features to Full Self-Driving and dropped the ‘Enhanced.”

We’ll unravel the mystery so you know which one of Tesla’s driving aid packages is being talked about.

So, what are exactly the differences between Autopilot and Full Self-Driving?

Okay, so every Tesla made since February 2019 has three option packages for driver aids: Standard, Autopilot, and Full Self-Driving (FSD).

Before that date, owners could have ended up with a fairly confusing collection of driving aids, with multiple versions of Autopilot that covered different features, including Enhanced Autopilot, “Autopilot convenience features,” and more. We’re specifically talking about the current, 2019, and newer feature sets here.


tesla model 3 steering wheel
Image: Unsplash

Teslas come with a whole host of modern safety features found on newer cars, like airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and more.

Then there’s Tesla’s Active Safety Features, which add more functionality to aid the driver:

  • Automatic Emergency Braking
  • Front and Side Collision Warning
  • Obstacle Aware Acceleration
  • Blind Spot Monitoring
  • Lane Departure Avoidance
  • Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance

These are firmly in the realm of driver assists, just like most modern cars. The features on Teslas are more advanced than your usual gas-burning car though. And yes, they are enabled by the same hardware and cameras that are used by Autopilot, so we get it if the whole situation is confusing.


tesla interior showing car icon on touchscreen for gear selection
Image: Tesla

Okay, before we go any further, we really should stop to remind you that, no matter what Tesla uses for advertising, its advanced driving tech isn’t capable of driving a car itself, not completely. Legally, it also needs a driver in the seat at all times, with their hands on the wheel, in case of emergencies.

Paying for Autopilot adds the following two features over the standard package:

  • Traffic aware cruise control
  • Autosteer

Those additions make highway driving a cinch, as Autopilot equipped Teslas can take over most driving tasks without the driver needing to be involved, like matching speed to surrounding traffic, follow speed limits, and staying on course in clearly marked lanes.

Full Self-Driving:

tesla full self-driving
Image: Tesla

Full Self-Driving or FSD is Tesla’s most advanced driver-assist package, but it’s still a driver assist at this stage in development. Yes, you’ve seen all of those videos of people having the Tesla drive them between cities, but it’s still technically a Level 2 system and requires the driver to have their hands on the wheel and be aware of the rest of the road users.

FSD adds the following to the two lists of features above:

  • Navigate on Autopilot (beta)
  • Auto Lane Change
  • Autopark
  • Summon
  • Smart Summon
  • Traffic and Stop Sign Control (beta)

The next feature coming to FSD is Autosteer on city streets, which will give Teslas the ability to navigate around urban areas, including those with unclear or absent road markings.

For most users, you probably don’t need FSD, even though Autopark and Summon are super cool.

Let’s talk prices

Any Tesla bought today comes with Active Safety and the basic functionality of Autopilot. Earlier owners can add basic Autopilot features for $3,000. Full Self-Driving costs $10,000 at the time of purchase, or you can pay $199 a month for FSD on a subscription model. It’s also another $1,500 to get the hardware needed for FSD if your Tesla is older and doesn’t have the necessary parts already.

Just, don’t call it an autonomous driving car (yet). It’s still a driving aid, even if it does say Full Self-Driving in the name.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience at KnowTechie, SlashGear and XDA Developers. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere, with particular focus in gadgetry and handheld gaming. Shoot him an email at joe@knowtechie.com.

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