What is Tesla Full Self-Driving?

Jessica Shea Choksey | Nov 15, 2021

Tesla's "Full Self-Driving" capability expands on the carmaker's Autopilot suite of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). While Autopilot navigates highways and performs instrument-guided maneuvers at interstate speeds, Full Self-Driving adds the ability to drive semi-autonomously on city streets and through residential areas.

Tesla Full Self-Driving

Does "Full Self-Driving" really mean full self-driving?

Although Tesla calls the system "Full Self-Driving," it is not, in a literal sense, fully self-driving. Instead, it is a Level 2 autonomous system that requires the driver to pay significant attention to the road ahead and have at least one hand touching the steering wheel. Full Self-Driving, despite its name, is not considered fully autonomous or hands-free by industry standards or regulatory definitions. For this reason, Full Self-Driving is under scrutiny by regulators and has received criticism from some autonomous-vehicle experts.

However, Tesla defends the Full Self-Driving name, asserting this technology will become more capable over time and is currently laying the groundwork for a fully autonomous driving experience in the future. The software is currently undergoing a phased rollout to Tesla owners that began with real-world beta testing to a limited group of drivers.

How Full Self-Driving Works

To enhance safety and convenience, Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, together, reduce the overall workload of operating a vehicle. The technology utilizes eight external cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and a powerful onboard software system to enable semi-autonomous capabilities on highways, byways, and local roads alike. Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles employ camera-based Tesla Vision, while Model S and Model X continue to utilize radar. Tesla does not employ Lidar as part of its ADAS strategy.

Full Self-Driving Features

In addition to Autopilot's Traffic-Aware Cruise Control, which matches the speed of the car with that of surrounding traffic, and Autosteer, which assists in steering within a marked lane, Full Self-Driving enables these capabilities:

  • Navigate on Autopilot: Actively guides a vehicle from a highway's on-ramp to off-ramp, including navigating interchanges, automatically engaging the turn signal, and taking the correct exit. The system aims to find and follow the most efficient path to a destination.
  • Auto Lane Change: Assists in automatically moving the vehicle to an adjacent lane when the driver engages the turn signal in the direction they would like to move. This system works in tandem with Autosteer.
  • Autopark: Helps automatically parallel or perpendicular park a vehicle. Autopark detects parallel parking spots when driving below 15 miles per hour and perpendicular parking spots below 10 miles per hour. The car will shift into Park on its own once the parking maneuver is complete.
  • Summon: Moves a vehicle in and out of a tight space using the Tesla mobile app.
  • Smart Summon: Moves a vehicle through complex environments and parking spaces to arrive at the driver's location.
  • Traffic and Stop Sign Control: Identifies stop signs and traffic lights and automatically slows a vehicle's approach to a stop. This feature also integrates a driving visualization screen that displays upcoming traffic lights, stop signs, or road markings and will provide an estimated distance to when the vehicle will stop.

As Tesla's Autopilot and Full Self-Driving capabilities evolve, the systems will receive continual upgrades through over-the-air (OTA) software updates.

Active Safety Features

In addition to Autopilot and Full Self-Driving functionalities, Tesla adds these active safety features as standard equipment on all new Tesla vehicles:

  • Automatic emergency braking: Detects cars or obstacles and applies the brakes accordingly
  • Forward-collision warning: Warns of potential collisions with moving or stationary objects in front of the vehicle
  • Side-collision warning: Warns of potential collisions approaching from the side of the vehicle
  • Obstacle Aware Acceleration: Reduces acceleration when an obstacle is detected in front of the car while driving at low speeds
  • Blind-spot warning: Warns when a vehicle is detected when moving into an adjacent lane
  • Lane-departure warning: Applies corrective steering to keep the vehicle in the intended lane
  • Emergency lane-departure avoidance: Steers the vehicle back into the driving lane when detecting an unintended lane departure and a potential collision


Tesla Full Self-Driving offers a suite of driver-assistance features that make driving safer and less stressful. However, the current iteration requires active driver supervision and does not make the vehicle autonomous or hands-free. Before using Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, please refer to the owner's manual or Tesla consumer support for instructions and safety information.

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