What is the difference between autopilot and full self-driving?

I’m considering upgrading to a Tesla for a few reasons—including the awesome driver assistance features. But I’m a little confused between some of the options. Can you help explain the difference between their autopilot features and full self-driving?

Bonnie Stinson · Updated on
Reviewed by Shannon Martin, Licensed Insurance Agent.
Autopilot is an advanced system of driver assistance technology, while full self-drive (FSD) is a mode for future Tesla models that will assist the autopilot system in being even more autonomous.
models are popular for their autopilot features.
Autopilot comes standard on every new Tesla model and includes traffic-aware cruise control—which matches your car’s speed to the speed of traffic—and autosteer, which helps you stay in your lane. Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD) are optional upgrades.
Here’s a quick overview of each of these three systems.
Tesla Autopilot:
  • Autosteer is a driver assistance feature that helps you stay centered in the lane as you drive.
  • Traffic-Aware Cruise Control will allow you to keep your car at a similar speed to the other vehicles around you.
Tesla Enhanced Autopilot:
  • Autopark can guide you into a parking space with the touch of a button. This includes parallel parking!
  • Auto Lane Change is a feature that helps you move between lanes. This is optimal for highway driving.
  • Summon is a futuristic function that can move your Tesla in and out of a tight parking space when engaged through the mobile app.
Tesla Full Self-Driving (still in beta testing as of March 2023):
  • Includes all features of both Autopilot and Enhanced Autopilot systems.
  • Traffic light recognition will stop your Tesla at a red light.
  • Stop sign recognition will stop your Tesla at a stop sign.
You cannot sleep while driving a Tesla—even if it’s equipped with FSD. You could be fined or cause an accident if the Tesla veers off course.
Currently, Full Self-Driving software (which comes with a computer upgrade that you can book through the Tesla app) will cost you $12,000 upfront in the U.S. You may also purchase an FSD subscription ranging from $99 to $199 per month.
If you buy the FSD package outright and sell your Tesla, the new owner will inherit the software when they purchase your car. If you subscribe to FSD, you’ll be able to carry the package over if you decide to buy a new Tesla.
When choosing a Tesla: Choose a newer model Tesla that uses Tesla Vision (neural net processing and sight-advanced cameras). It will perform better than an older Tesla that uses radar because it can more accurately monitor road conditions.
Otherwise, it’s down to personal preference for driver assistance. FSD costs a lot more but you get a much smarter car. Enhanced Autopilot provides a good balance of useful features for most drivers while they work out the kinks with FSD.
Pro tip: There are six levels of autonomy when it comes to self-driving cars.
  • Level 0: No automation
  • Level 1: Driver Assistance
  • Level 2: Partial Automation
  • Level 3: Conditional Automation
  • Level 4: High Automation
  • Level 5: Full Automation
Teslas and other self-driving cars on the market today have not surpassed level 2 of autonomy, where the driver must keep their hands on the wheel.
If you are set on an automated or self-driving car, you may want to wait. FSD is not perfect yet—on any make or model.
For example: In February 2023, a recall was issued for 363,000 Teslas with FSD mode. Luckily, this issue was quickly resolved with over-the-air software updates.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that the expected rollout of 100% automated self-driving cars will be in 2025. Chances are you’ll receive a much more reliable vehicle if you’re willing to delay your AV purchase.
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Jerry partners with more than 50 insurance companies, but our content is independently researched, written, and fact-checked by our team of editors and agents. We aren’t paid for reviews or other content.

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