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Tesla Autopilot vs. FSD: Is FSD Worth the Splurge?

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by Nick Versaw Updated May 17th, 2022

Tesla Autopilot vs FSD: Tesla Model S

Self-driving cars are nearing reality, as many automakers continue making their vehicles more autonomous. But we’re not quite there yet.

Tesla has gotten very close to autonomous cars with its Autopilot system and optional full-self driving (FSD) capability. The former is standard on all Tesla models, while the latter is a big-money option. But which is the better option for you, the free Autopilot or upgraded FSD?

Below, we explore Tesla Autopilot vs. FSD and show how they are similar and different. We also help you get the high-end features for less.


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What is Tesla Autopilot?

Autopilot is the name given to Tesla’s suite of smart safety features on its cars, but it also has optional full-self-driving (FSD) capabilities.

Every Tesla model comes standard with the Autopilot base safety features designed to help enhance safety by being an extra set of eyes on the road. Autopilot also helps reduce driver fatigue by automating certain driving functions. However, the vehicle cannot drive itself and requires driver action.

Here are the two standard Autopilot features included on every Tesla vehicle.

Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (TACC)

The first standard Autopilot feature is TACC, which many car buyers likely know generically as adaptive cruise control.

With TACC active, you set your maximum cruising speed, and it monitors surrounding traffic. When it detects slower traffic in the same lane as you, it resets the cruise control speed to match the speed of the surrounding traffic. Once the traffic clears, TACC accelerates the Tesla back to your set cruising speed.

Autosteer

Autosteer is the other standard Autopilot feature on every Tesla model. This system, which buyers will colloquially known as lane-keeping assist or lane-centering assist, keeps the Tesla within a clearly marked lane on the road when TACC is engaged.

If the Tesla nears the inner or outer line of the lane, the Tesla will automatically steer it back to the center of the lane.

What Is Tesla’s FSD Capability?

Optional on all Tesla models is FSD capability or full-self-driving capability. As of May 2022, this is a $12,000 option on all Tesla models and effectively activates all the Autopilot capabilities for near-autonomous driving.

Tesla’s FSD features are as follows.

Navigate on Autopilot

Tesla Autopilot vs FSD: Navigate on Autopilot

Navigate on Autopilot works with TACC and Autosteer to guide the vehicle from a highway on-ramp to the off-ramp. In addition to the basic functions of TACC and Autosteer, Navigate on Autopilot also suggests lane changes to make your route faster or to prepare for an exit ramp or merge. You then confirm the lane change by activating the turn signal, then the Tesla will automatically change the lane or merge.

This may sound like an autonomous driving system to you, but you must keep your hands on the steering wheel and be prepared to intervene in case of an error.

Auto Lane Change

When you have Autosteer activated with FSD capability, the Tesla vehicle can automatically change lanes for you when it’s safe. Simply activate the turn signal in the direction you want to change lanes, and the Tesla will automatically move to that lane when it’s clear.

Autopark

Tesla models equipped with FSD can also park themselves in perpendicular and parallel spaces. The vehicle uses its cameras, ultrasonic sensors, and GPS to find a suitable parking space. Then, with minimal intervention from the driver, it automatically backs into a perpendicular space or parallel parks.

Summon

With the Summon feature, you can park the Tesla in a tight space from outside the vehicle using the key fob or mobile app. Summon is limited to only 12 meters of forward or reverse movement though.

Smart Summon

Smart Summon

Smart Summon is a more advanced version of the basic Summon feature. It will not only pull the vehicle in and out of a tight space, but it’ll also use your phone’s positioning as a GPS and drive itself to your location.

You must be within 6 meters of the vehicle for Smart Summon to work. Plus, you must monitor the vehicle the whole way to ensure it avoids all hazards, like pedestrians and other vehicles.

Traffic and Stop Sign Control

With TACC and Autosteer activated, Traffic and Stop Sign Control will use forward-facing cameras and GPS data to detect stop signs and traffic lights. If it detects a red light or stop sign, it’ll slow the Tesla to a stop. It also knows to slow as you approach blinking yellow lights.

As you approach an intersection, the electric vehicle will start to slow down — even if there is a green light — and show a red line indicating where it’ll stop if the driver doesn’t act. If it’s a green light, and you wish to proceed, you must push down on the drive stalk or briefly press the gas pedal to give the vehicle permission to proceed through the intersection.

Autosteer on City Streets

Autosteer on City Streets is still in development and testing, so it’s not available as a part of the FSD package yet. When it does become available, it will automatically steer the electric car through a more complex urban setting using the Autosteer function.

More Safety Technology on Tesla Models

While Autopilot and FSD capability are the big attractions at Tesla, there is an array of high-tech safety features that are standard on all Teslas. These are:

  • Automatic emergency braking: If Tesla’s Autopilot hardware and software detect other cars or obstacles in the roadway that you may hit, it’ll apply the brakes to slow or stop the vehicle if you don’t react.
  • Forward collision warning: If the Tesla Autopilot system detects slowed or stopped objects or vehicles ahead of you and senses you may impact them, it’ll alert you visually and audibly. This is the preemptive warning before automatic emergency braking kicks in.
  • Side collision warning: If the Tesla Autopilot system senses you are about to impact a vehicle or object on the left or right side of the vehicle, it’ll warn you.
  • Obstacle aware acceleration: If you are accelerating, and the Autopilot system detects a lower-speed object or car, it will automatically reduce your acceleration.
  • Blind-spot monitoring: If Autopilot detects a vehicle in the car’s natural blind spot, and you attempt to move into the lane that vehicle is in, it’ll alert you.
  • Lane-departure avoidance: This system automatically steers the Tesla back into its lane if you unintentionally sway toward either lane-marking line.

Tesla Autopilot vs. FSD: Which is Best for You?

Tesla’s basic Autopilot system and the accompanying driver assistance features are perfect for the average driver. It gives you extra eyes and ears to keep you safe and offers some automation to help reduce fatigue on longer drives. The average driver will find these systems useful and adequate for their needs.

But who would benefit from the $12,000 upgrade to Tesla full-self-driving features on their new Tesla model? This system would be best for someone who practically lives on the road, such as a traveling salesperson, a business owner, or a long-haul courier. The additional semi-autonomous-driving features will give an on-the-go professional periods of time where the Tesla does the bulk of the driving work and they simply remain aware in case of a malfunction.

Keep in mind that Tesla’s FSD, despite its name, does not make it an autonomous vehicle that drives itself fully. The driver must still remain attentive and intervene as necessary. It could become fully autonomous over time when new features are added via over-the-air software updates, but it’s not at that point yet.

Can You Get These Features More Affordably?

Tesla cars are already relatively expensive when new, and adding in a $12,000 FSD package can make them outright unaffordable to many. However, there are ways to get Autopilot for a little less out of pocket.

One option is to lease your Tesla model. The Model 3, Model Y, Model S, and Model X all have 36-month lease options straight through Tesla. The base lease prices (with and without the full-self-driving package) are as follows:

Model 3

  • Tesla Model 3 base lease: $4,500 due at signing and $499 per month
  • Tesla Model 3 base lease with FSD: $4,500 due at signing and $657 per month

Model Y

  • Tesla Model Y base lease: $4,500 due at signing and $739 per month
  • Tesla Model Y base lease with FSD: $4,500 due at signing and $903 per month

Model S

  • Tesla Model S base lease: $7,500 due at signing and $1,399 per month
  • Tesla Model S base lease with FSD: $7,500 due at signing and $1,592 per month

Model X

  • Tesla Model X base lease: $7,500 due at signing and $1,629 per month
  • Tesla Model X base lease with FSD: $7,500 due at signing and $1,821 per month

If you’re still interested in purchasing a Tesla with Autopilot or FSD, there is a relatively vast used market for the entire lineup. You’re sure to find a pre-owned Tesla with all the features you want with thousands of dollars in savings compared to a new Tesla.

Compare.com Can Help Find Your Next EV

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Ready to find the perfect pre-owned electric car — possibly a Tesla with Autopilot or FSD? Compare.com’s powerful EV search tool will scour your area to find the perfect electric car for you. Plus, you can learn more about electric cars to ensure you’re going into this purchase with all the information you need with our EV buyer guides.


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