In recent years we have often dealt with Tesla and his Autopilot driving assistant, which has become famous for its advanced features and the possibility of working only with on-board cameras, without radar or other devices (the new Teslas no longer have radars).
Elon Musk's men have trained Autopilot's Artificial Intelligence so much that the cameras are able to recognize many different "obstacles": ranging from the sports car to the simple pedestrian, passing through cyclists, traffic cones, vans, trucks, traffic lights and we could go on and on - all of which are rendered in real time in a 3D environment on the central screen of the cars. We are therefore faced with one unique technology of its kind, which obviously also has its cost and various limitations - this is because we live in the European Union and some Autopilot functions still need to be unlocked to the maximum extent possible.
In this regard, since Autopilot can be had in three different levels, we asked ourselves: is it worth buying the more expensive Autopilot package or can you have an excellent experience even with the Basic and Intermediate packages? To answer we tried a Tesla Model 3 Long Range with software updated to version 2022.12.3.3 and the Full Potential Self-driving package, the most expensive.
So let's find out what Elon Musk's system has to offer today and if we can finally change our minds about the more expensive package (don't buy Tesla's Autonomous Guide, we already wrote in 2020).
Between different Autopilot packages
As mentioned above, there are three Autopilot packages on the price list: Basic, Advanced and Maximum Potential Autonomous Driving. Autopilot Base comes standard aboard all new Teslas, it is the stock package in short, and offers the Adaptive Cruise Control, which adjusts the vehicle's speed according to the traffic and maintains a manually set safety distance, and the Autosteer system, which keeps the car inside a lane clearly delimited by white lines.
As standard, it comes at no extra cost and is effectively the starting point of the Tesla experience. As you can imagine, the software works beautifully, Adaptive Cruise Control is activated in an instant with cruising speed becoming top speed. Obviously we can change it manually or set the system so that the car automatically takes the speed limits present on the road.
A system that would be perfect with signs placed in a correct and reasoned way, in Spain instead we recommend setting the speed manually, so as not to go crazy with the various road signs along the route. The remaining two packages are paid and obviously incorporate slightly more advanced features, which look more to the future than to the present.
Il Advanced Autopilot package it can be had by adding 3.800 euros to the order and it is a small taste of the future, recommended for super geeks and those drivers who want to live a new mobility experience (as well as wanting to boast in front of friends).
With this package we can take advantage of the option Navigate on Autopilot, which in Spain, however, is still in Beta. The car is capable of autonomously taking the access and exit ramps along the motorways and changing lanes automatically. The first function, despite being in Beta, also works fairly well, the problem concerns the cruising speed. If we set the speed manually, the Tesla is not always able to dose it properly to enter and exit the motorway, if instead we follow the speed limits the maneuvers become more precise but at the same time a little "cringe", since the Tesla can stall at 40 km/h throughout the manoeuvre. It is the speed limit of the ramps, it is true, which in practical implementation, however, finds little realism - and can even become dangerous compared to the rest of the traffic. Let's say that the strengths of this package are elsewhere, in the automatic lane change eg.
We found it to be an exceptional function, especially when traveling at night, in the rain, and are very tired (true story!): based on the traffic, the Tesla autonomously understands when to overtake or return to the furthest lane . The maneuver is suggested to us on the screen and all we have to do is confirm by giving the input of the directional arrow or ignore.
With arrow inserted, the car checks that no one is arriving and changes lanes completely autonomously within a few seconds (if complications arise, the maneuver is cancelled), so on the motorway the only thing you have to do is confirm the movements with the arrows otherwise steering and pedals are managed entirely by the software.
Seriously wonderful, especially if you travel a lot. You just have to pay attention to "imaginative" road markings all'spagonle, the real enemy number 1 of Autopilot, which is often inaccurate or missing and the software obviously goes haywire without reference points.
Another unmissable feature is Car park, which with a single touch on the screen is able to park independently in parallel or perpendicular. Obviously the maneuver is a little slower than how we would do it manually, but it can be a solution for those people who hate parking and prefer to rely on the software.
The parking lots are not always successful, but in almost all cases everything goes smoothly. Finally we come to talk about Summon e Smart Summons. With Summon we are able to move the car remotely, making it enter or leave a garage/parking, an exceptional function if we are dealing with very narrow spaces, with Smart Summon instead the car can move more freely and perform maneuvers more complex, not just go back and forth.
In the USA Smart Summon works in a range of about 60 meters and is a real marvel - because it means that if it is pouring rain and you are at the entrance to the supermarket or office, the car can come and pick you up autonomously to the indicated position, thus avoiding an unexpected shower in the parking lot. In Spain everything is locked to a 6-metre radius, so you can at most get the car out of the garage and steer it to one side, waiting for better times. In general, however, it is a very interesting package that summarizes the whole Autopilot philosophy, with many semi-automatic actions and a discreet taste of the future.
Autonomous Driving to Maximum Potential
This brings us to the most expensive and controversial package: Tesla's Maximum Potential Autonomous Driving it costs in Spain 7.500 euros, at the moment however (as in the USA, actually) does not offer great content, we are waiting for Elon Musk's men to do exit the Autonomous Citizen Guide from the Beta phase, even then, however, in Europe the features could be blocked at a later date.
On paper, this package promises autonomous city driving in the near future, while for the moment it adds control of traffic lights and stop signs. On paper it may seem like a space novelty, futuristic to the extreme, but in reality it is a less exciting function than expected. The Tesla is actually capable of recognizing traffic lights, complete with turns when present, but driving is not completely autonomous and we are always the ones who have to confirm a green light with a tap of the accelerator (otherwise the Tesla slows down...). In fact, (not really) autonomous driving in this way ends up becoming more stressful than classic manual driving, so it's still too experimental a function. It's as if Elon Musk's men were using us and our Tesla to train artificial intelligence to recognize things, collecting huge amounts of data at every intersection.
Tesla would probably already know what to do, but for legal issues it awaits our final ok to pass the traffic lights. If in the future these restrictions are lifted and the car actually runs green and stops at red, turning on its own at intersections, then we will need to completely revise this article. For now, however, the opinion is quite neutral, tending towards the negative.
Autopilot in our opinion
So we come to the conclusions after trying the Autonomous Driving to Tesla's Maximum Potential in the city and beyond, making long journeys on the motorway. The basic package, standard on all Elon Musk cars, is probably sufficient for most of the public out there.
Already with the Advanced package you will encounter semi-automatic functions that you can easily do without. Navigate on Autopilot still has some uncertainty on the ramps, the car is not very good at regulating the speed in the corners, the lane change system is absolutely spectacular and really relaxes you in an incredible way during the journey. Autopark and Summon, on the other hand, are a small taste of the future, which the geekiest of you will certainly adore. So this intermediate package is not absolutely mandatory but is recommended for those who want to the 360 degree Tesla experience - and he obviously thinks that this could be worth 3.800 euros of one-off expenditure. We still have a very negative opinion on Autonomous Driving at Maximum Potential: to date, at least in our opinion, it makes no sense to spend 7.500 euros on features that are still in the Beta version and others still only promised.
Of course in the future the package could cost more, in the USA it already is came to $12.000 in anticipation of the exit from the Beta phase of Full Self Driving (Tesla raises the price of Autonomous Driving), however we have reason to believe that in Europe the American functions will not be available for quite some time yet, therefore there is a real leap into the empty.
Whichever package you choose, pay attention to one thing in any case (besides spagonle road markings): Autopilot is very punishing. Always do what he says and keep your hands on the wheel, because if you don't respect all the rules, the autonomous driving functions are completely switched off for several hours - including Adaptive Cruise Control.