Autonomous driving: Everything you need to know about self-driving cars

Tesla is one of the prominent brands in autonomous driving, but is it sufficient?
Can Emir
Autonomous driving stock image.
Autonomous driving stock image.


  • Autonomous driving is the new goal of the automaking industry.
  • Auto manufacturers, including Tesla, Volvo, Mercedes, Audi, and others, are working toward Level 5 of autonomous driving.
  • Tesla claims that its cutting-edge driver assistance system, Autopilot, improves comfort and safety while operating a vehicle.

Autonomous driving is the new goal of the automaking industry. Many companies have started their research on different levels of autonomous driving. 

Typically, the term "autonomous driving" refers to self-driving cars or other transportation systems that operate with varying levels of assistance from a human driver, including none.

Autonomous driving: Everything you need to know about self-driving cars
Aerial drone shot of autonomous self driving cars moving through city

Auto manufacturers, including Tesla, Volvo, Mercedes, Audi, and others, are working toward Level 5 of autonomous driving. Progressively, car makers are adding more autonomous features to their vehicles. The goal for some is to make vehicles that can operate without any human intervention at all. To get familiar with the different levels of autonomous driving as the automotive industry reaches for the Level 5 goal.

What are the levels of automation?

Level 0: No automation

Today, only the oldest cars on the road today belong to this category. The human driver is in full charge of every aspect of the dynamic driving tasks. The car perhaps is enhanced by warning or intervention systems, but the human driver has all the control to make the decisions.

Level 1: Driver Assistance

In a vehicle with Level 1 autonomy, the car may control one element of the driving process, such as the steering or the vehicle speed, under certain conditions, while the human driver has full responsibility for monitoring the road and taking over if necessary or if the assistance system fails to act appropriately. Examples of level one autonomy include lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control.

Level 2: Partial Automation

This is now common in most new vehicles. At this level, onboard computers may control multiple functions at the same time, such as both the steering and acceleration/deceleration. The human driver, however, performs the remaining aspects of the dynamic driving tasks, such as being responsible for changing lanes, scanning for hazards, responding to traffic signals, and making turns. Features may include lane-change mode, self-parking, and driver monitoring.

Level 3: Conditional Automation

This level will likely soon come as standard in new vehicles. Level 3 vehicles will be highly automated and include a mode that lets the vehicle control all aspects of driving, although the driver must be ready to respond or intervene. The vehicle's Automated Driving System can monitor the driving environment controlling the acceleration, braking, and steering.

Level 4: Fully autonomous in controlled conditions

The system controls all aspects of the driving tasks in geofenced areas. This includes situations where the human driver doesn't respond appropriately when requested to intervene. It will be genuine hands-off driving, although a driver will likely still be required outside certain areas. Both Ford and Volvo are working on Level 4 autonomy.

Level 5: Full Automation

The Automated Driving System is in operation full-time and anywhere. All aspects of the dynamic driving tasks under all roadway and environmental conditions are autonomous. Automakers have not yet set a timeline for when exactly fully self-driving cars will come to market. With a Level 5 car, you will be able to select the destination, lay back, and relax while the car takes you there safely. Or you can use the time efficiently to prepare for a meeting, make calls, answer emails, or take a nap while your car does the driving.

Tesla's Autopilot and Full Self-Driving capabilities

Tesla claims that its cutting-edge driver assistance system, Autopilot, improves comfort and safety while operating a vehicle. Autopilot reduces your overall workload as a driver when used appropriately. Eight exterior cameras and advanced visual processing are included in every new Tesla vehicle to give an extra security measure. 

Full Self-Driving Capability, Enhanced Autopilot, and Autopilot are all designed to be used by vigilant drivers who keep their hands on the wheel and are ready to take control at any time. Although these characteristics are intended to develop in capability over time, the currently active ones do not render the vehicle autonomous.

Every new Tesla comes with Autopilot as standard equipment, depending on when the car was made. 

Two Autopilot packages are available for customers who received their vehicles without Autopilot: Full self-driving capability and improved Autopilot.

Which Tesla drives itself?

Autonomous driving: Everything you need to know about self-driving cars
Tesla electric vehicles.

Unfortunately, none. Elon Musk stated, "I'm extremely confident that level 5 or essentially complete autonomy will happen, and I think will happen very quickly." at the opening of Shanghai's annual World Artificial Intelligence Conference in China in 2020. He further added, "I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for level 5 autonomy complete this year."

Since an utterly focused driver is required to operate Autopilot, a hands-on driver assistance technology, it neither makes a Tesla a self-driving vehicle nor does it render a vehicle autonomous. Autopilot's name and advertising have caused some confusion, with some drivers assuming they no longer had to have their hands on the wheel or pay attention. In 2020, Germany banned Tesla from making the claim that its cars were "self-driving."

But, Tesla Vision uses the company's cutting-edge camera system and neural network processing to enable Autopilot and associated capabilities since April 2022 on Model 3 and Model Y vehicles made for the European and Middle Eastern markets. 

This camera system gives passengers a sense of their surroundings that a driver by themselves would not usually have. A potent onboard computer processes these inputs in milliseconds to assist, thus making driving safer and less demanding.

You must consent to "retain control and responsibility for your automobile at all times" and to "keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times" before enabling Autopilot. Once activated, Autopilot will also issue more visual and aural alerts, prompting you to take your hands off the wheel if there is insufficient torque. You will lose access to utilizing Autopilot on that journey if you disregard these warnings repeatedly.

Any Autopilot function can be overridden at any time by steering, hitting the brakes, or deactivating the cruise control stalk.

What are the limitations of Autopilot?

The performance of Autopilot can be affected by various events, which can prevent the system from working as intended. Poor visibility, bright light, mud, ice, snow, interference or obstruction by objects mounted on the vehicle, obstruction caused by applying too much paint or adhesive products, narrow, high curvature, or winding roads, a damaged or misaligned bumper, and more are just a few examples.

To ensure the Autopilot hardware can provide information that is as accurate as possible, keep the cameras and sensors clean and free of obstructions or damage. Occasionally remove any dirt buildup by wiping the cameras and sensors with a soft cloth dampened with warm water.

With Traffic-Aware Cruise Control, Autopilot automatically adjusts your vehicle's speed to the surrounding traffic. Additionally, Autosteer uses traffic-aware cruise control and aids in steering inside a designated lane.

On the other hand, Enhanced Autopilot offers Auto Lane Change, Autopark, and Autopark to help parallel or perpendicular park your car with a single touch. 

The Summon feature moves your car in and out of a tight space using a mobile app. The Smart Summon feature will navigate your car in more complex environments and parking spaces, maneuvering around objects as necessary to come to find you in a car park within your immediate vicinity. 

Full Self-Driving capability

The current versions of Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot, and Full Self-Driving require active driver control and do not render the vehicle autonomous at level 4 or 5. After accumulating billions of kilometers of driving experience and receiving regulatory approval, which could take longer in some countries, full autonomy will eventually be possible. Your car will receive regular over-the-air software updates as Tesla's Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot, and Full Self-Driving capabilities advance.

Which Tesla model has the longest range?

Autonomous driving: Everything you need to know about self-driving cars
Tesla Model S Plaid

Tesla's dual-motor Model S is the longest-ranged Tesla model, with a range of up to 405 miles (646 km). But to reach that range, drivers must pay attention to their speedometers, as the vehicle shouldn't go above 70 mph (112 kph), and use the aero wheels with low resistance tires. 

With all that's said, Tesla is a successful electric-powered carmaker and thriving to accomplish more with each model. And without a doubt, the company will be one of the first companies to achieve Level 5 autonomous driving.

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