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I used Tesla’s Autopilot for the first time and found it to make a long drive bearable – as long as you remember what it can’t do

Tesla Model Y.
Tim Levin / Insider

  • I tried Autopilot, Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system, in Model Y SUV car.
  • It automatically steers to follow the curves of the road and keep up with the traffic.
  • It will be a welcome tool on long and boring highways.

Elon Musk say it all the time: the more Tesla a software company as it is a car manufacturer.

Whether you agree or not, without a doubt, the company’s most famous and controversial piece of technology is Autopilot.

Many Tesla owners swear by the semi-autonomous driving feature. At the same time, the federal government incident investigation where an Autopilot-assisted car collides with a parked emergency vehicle. Some safety expert argues that the Autopilot moniker evokes too much trust in the system, since it is not autonomous.

Needless to say, I was eager to test the Autopilot feature for myself when Tesla Model Y review recently.

What is Autopilot and is it self-driving?

Tesla Model Y electric SUV.

Tesla Model Y.
Tim Levin / Insider

Autopilot, first released in 2014, is an advanced driver assistance system that relies on a set of cameras to “see” surrounding traffic and take on a number of driving tasks. It’s essentially a smarter version of cruise control that adjusts speed in response to the car ahead and steers around bends in the road.

Musk has promised that self-driving Teslas have been around for years, but that has yet to materialize. Autopilot (like similar features from other brands) rated at 2 above widely accepted five levels of driving automation, which means it requires full human supervision. In Level 5 cars, passengers can take a nap while the car does 100% of the work.

Autopilot is standard on all Teslas. It is different from the company’s more expensive price Advanced autonomous driving and Fully self-driving features, has a lot of extra capabilities but still doesn’t give full autonomy.

How is it to use?

Tesla Model Y.

Tesla Model Y.
Tim Levin / Insider

The autopilot performed impressively well during a few hours of driving on divided highways and some two-lane roads. Full disclosure: This brief test took place in broad daylight in ideal weather conditions.

After tapping the right stalk twice, Autopilot is activated immediately almost every time. Some other systems I’ve tried It may take a few seconds to lock onto the lane lines. Braking or raising the stem will disable the system.

The autopilot confidently kept the SUV centered in its lane without any wobble or flicker. It follows the curves of the road nicely, but I found that it took some turns too fast for comfort. It reacts naturally to other cars, slowing down in traffic and skirunning up as soon as everything clears up. One can easily set the flight speed using the scroll wheel on the right side of the steering wheel. Several times when another car rammed in front of the Tesla, Autopilot responded well.

Tesla Model Y.

Tesla Model Y.
Tim Levin / Insider

Handy visualizations on the car’s touchscreen show what the vehicle sees, including other vehicles and traffic cones. When Autopilot is on, the display shows a blue steering wheel icon and highlights the lane lines in blue. But I wish the Model Y had a display in front of the driver. That way, one can see Autopilot’s status – including the set speed and whether it detects a vehicle ahead – without looking far away from the road.

Tesla owners often complain about their cars nagging them to keep the wheel while Autopilot is on, but I don’t see that as an issue. Maintaining a bit of rotational pressure on the wheels will help the car know you’re engaged.

What is a judgment?

Tesla Model Y.

Tesla Model Y.
Tim Levin / Insider

The autopilot handles the highway admirably and can be a big asset on long and monotonous roads road trips. I have not experienced virtual brake error reported by Tesla owners.

However, it is important to understand the limitations of the system. Technically, autopilot works on any road with visible lane markings, but that’s not always recommended. For example, it activates on roads with traffic lights but will not react to them. I used Autopilot a bit on non-highway roads, but found it unsettling to not have full control in previously unpredictable environments.

Ford and Synthetic engine ensure that their system is only used in optimal situations by restricting functionality to approved highways.

Perhaps one day a Tesla will be able to truly drive itself (This year, if you believe Elon Musk). But that future could be a long way off.

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