Here's some sensible news regarding Tesla's ongoing flip-flop in its driving automation: Earlier this week, the company brought back the Enhanced Autopilot package.
The good? It costs only $6000. The bad? It still costs a whopping $6000.
First introduced in October 2016, Enhanced Autopilot (EAP) was the original next level of Autopilot. In early 2019, Tesla removed EAP when the company conjured up the snake oil that is Full Self-Driving (FSD), which encompasses EAP.
FSD remains available for double the cost -- $12000. Or you can get it via a $199/month subscription.
And the revival of Enhanced Autopilot makes a lot of sense.
Tesla driving automation: Autopilot vs Enhanced Autopilot vs Full Self-Driving
To understand the significance of the newly revived EAP, we need to look at the complete picture. As of late Jun 2022, there are three tiers of "autonomous" driving when you get a Tesla, as shown in the table below.
|Autopilot||Default||Included||- Traffic-Aware Cruise Control|
|$6000 upfront||All features of Autopilot plus:|
- Navigate on Autopilot
- Auto Lane Change
- Smart Summon
|All Features of Enhanced Autopilot plus:|
- Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control (beta)
- Autosteer on city streets (Coming Soon)
Note that all Teslas of the model year as early as 2018 and later are capable of these features -- no additional hardware is needed. If you don't know what each entails, open the box below to learn more.
Tesla's driving automation in brief
Generally, all Teslas come with 12 Ultra-sonic sensors for close-range detection and 8 cameras for long-range detection, around their body. Select models also have a front-mount RADAR.
Below is the breakdown of Tesla's driving automation, according to the company.
Autopilot includes the following functionality and features:
- Traffic-Aware Cruise Control: Matches the speed of your car to that of the surrounding traffic
- Autosteer: Assists in steering within a clearly marked lane, and uses traffic-aware cruise control
In addition to the functionality and features of Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot also includes:
- Navigate on Autopilot: Actively guides your car from a highway's on-ramp to off-ramp, including suggesting lane changes, navigating interchanges, automatically engaging the turn signal, and taking the correct exit.
- Auto Lane Change: Assists in moving to an adjacent lane on the highway when Autosteer is engaged.
- Autopark: Helps automatically parallel or perpendicular park your car, with a single touch.
- Summon: Moves your car in and out of a tight space using the mobile app or key.
- Smart Summon: Your car will navigate more complex environments and parking spaces, maneuvering around objects as necessary to come to find you in a parking lot.
Full Self-Driving Capability
In addition to the functionality and features of Autopilot and Enhanced Autopilot, Full Self-Driving Capability also includes:
Traffic and Stop Sign Control (Beta): Identifies stop signs and traffic lights and automatically slows your car to a stop on approach, with your active supervision
(Upcoming:) Autosteer on city streets
Full Self-Driving is a lie
Since its inception in 2019, Full Self-Driving has included everything above Autopilot, encompassing the original EAP it replaced.
However, the FSD package has never been entirely out of "beta" or "coming soon" status, and nobody knows what exactly it's supposed to do when (or if) it becomes finalized. But taking the name literally -- backed by Elon Musk's sales pitch -- folks believe it would ultimately make their car fully autonomous.
Elon Musk's latest promise on this front was that Tesla would achieve level-5 autonomous -- the car would drive itself 100% in all conditions -- by "the end of 2021." We all know how that turned out. (Hint: It was total BS.)
After having broken the FSD promise times and times again, Tesla now moved the portion of the Full Sel-Driving package that is actually working -- albeit only to a degree -- into a new and lower-tier and called it Enhanced Autopilot.
Or you can look at this as the company has moved FSD to a new tier that includes only the part that hasn't worked and woken up the original tier, Enhanced Autopilot, that works.
And in my experience, EAP's features work because they are all within the car's hardware capability.
Specifically, lane-changing on freeways, auto parking, and "Summon" require human supervision and can rely on the car's ultra-sonic sensors and cameras via the so-called "Tesla Vision". And they work even better on RADAR-equipped Teslas.
And personally, I like "Summon" the most.
On the other hand, Full Self-Driving's "Autosteer on city streets" notion, if taken at face value, can only work reliably when the car has additional sensors, such as LiDAR. Consequently, it will never come to fruition in Tesla's existing fleet. It's just not possible -- I wouldn't bet my life on it!
Elon Musk has said that Tesla cars can achieve level-5 autonomous driving with just the cameras, which is impossible in terms of reliability because cameras can be covered -- think snowing days. He also said, "LiDAR is a fool's errand". But Elon has said a lot of things.
So, again, since day one, the current FSD-exclusive portion has never fully worked. If you buy the package, though, your money is gone immediately. There's no "beta" or "coming soon" on Tesla's part when it comes to taking your money.
Enhanced Autopilot is the real deal
After years of struggling with FSD, Tesla has done the right thing by bringing back Enhanced Autopilot.
For the company, getting $6000 is much better than nothing, considering fewer and fewer folks opting for FSD due to the cost -- or the fact consumers have wised up and become less susceptible to Elon Musk's nonsense.
If only Elon could just shut up. Or grow up.
For the consumers, while still ridiculously over-priced, Enhanced Autopilot at least indeed gives them something tangible for their money. It might not be the burger you'd like, but it's still a burger nonetheless, so to speak.
And now, frankly, with Enhanced Autopilot, there's no reason anyone should even consider getting Full Self-Driving upfront -- why pay another $6000 for the nothing part of the burger?
We need to wait to see if Enhanced Autopilot will become available via subscription, hopefully also at half of the monthly cost. If so, I'd consider it.
As mentioned, "Summon" can come in handy on a daily basis. In fact, I'd be happy to pay $1000 outright for this feature itself if that were an option.
The final thoughts
In many ways, reviving Enhanced Autopilot is Tesla's admission that Full Self-Driving has not lived up to the hype, to put it mildly.
Here's the kicker: Those who have already bought FSD in full might wish they could downgrade it to Enhanced Autopilot and get a refund. They've never been able to enjoy the package more than the EAP portion anyway. And it's safe to say they never will, not on their current Teslas.
Unfortunately, considering the full self-driving notion seems to have been an ongoing and deliberate scam, getting your money back is unlikely an easy option. I wouldn't count on it.