How Tesla autopilot works

Tesla Motors claims that its cars have full self-drive capability in almost all circumstances, claiming that their autopilot is at least twice as safe than an human driver. The system is capable of driving the vehicle for long or short distances, without the need of any action from the driver. The only thing that should be done is to tell the car where you want to go; If nothing is said, the car will scan the calendar and take you to the already scheduled destination, or take you to your own home (if the calendar is empty).

Autopilot route selection

Autopilot deciding which route the car will take

The Tesla electric car will decide which are the ideal routes, navigate through urban routes, manage complex intersections with traffic lights, stop signs and roundabouts, as well as dealing with freeways that are very busy with cars moving at high speed. When arriving at the desired location, you only need to get out of the car and it will go into the parking mode, automatically searching for a place where it can park itself. Then, to summon it back, you only need one tap on your phone.

Car being guided by autopilot

Tesla eletric car being guided by the autopilot

Everything that was said is possible thanks to the eight surround cameras installed in their cars; these provide a 360-degree visibility around the car within a distance up to 820 ft. This view is complemented by twelve ultrasonic sensors, which allows the detection of several objects at a much greater distance, and by a radar (forward facing) with advanced processing, providing additional date on the world, at a wavelength capable to see through heavy rains, fog, dust and even the car ahead. This data is processed by an onboard computer which provides a worldview that a driver alone can not access, seeing in all directions simultaneously.

Cameras radius of vision

Autopilot radius of vision thanks to the cameras and radars


Eletric car disadvantages

While they have many advantages over gasoline-powered cars, electric cars have some disadvantages, most of which are tied to their batteries. By not storing as much energy as a fuel tank, its autonomy is relatively low, this is a big problem if the car is used to make a trip where they do not have many recharging stations. In addition to this low autonomy, recharge time is another problem, requiring at least eight hours to fully charge the car.

Recharge station

Recharge station for eletric cars

Its batteries are very heavy (a battery of a Tesla roadster weighs 992 lbs) and its durability is not so high, for losing about 10% of its load capacity per year, it is necessary to replace its battery in a period of 3 To 10 years (fairly expensive service).

Lithium-ion battery

Lithium-ion battery prototype for the Chevrolet Spark

In addition to problems with batteries, electric engines reach much lower peak speeds compared to combustion engines, a factor that hinders when the car is being used on a highway.

Electric engine

Electric engine used in a eletric car

Lastly, the cost of electric vehicles is much higher compared to gasoline-powered vehicles; For example, the Nissan Leaf has a cost of $ 33,000 and the Chevrolet Volt costs $ 40,000. This is due to the high cost of ion batteries that are used to make the electric engine work. Other than that, the cost of insurance for electric cars is greater than insurance for gasoline-powered cars because of the danger of running out of power in some place where they do not have nearby recharge points and electricity-related hazards.

Electric car main advantages

Low ambiental costs – Most of the time, the electricity used to recharge the electric cars battery is generated by the burning of fossil fuels, which is something that generates pollution. However, the generated pollution by this procedure is very small compared to the pollution generated by the cars that are gas powered. The EVAC (Electric Vehicle Association of Canada) afirmed that the electric cars recharged with coal-fired electric generators have the carbon emission rate reduced by half, while the cars recharged by cleaner processes of electric generation are capable to reduce this emission rate to less than 1% of the emission rate from the internal combustion engines. Besides that, the car batteries are 100% recycable, something that doesn’t generate problems with improper disposal of waste.

Pollution produced by gasoline powered cars

Electric cars don’t generate this kind of pollution

Low fuel and maintenace cost – The cost of the electric energy usage to recharge the electric cars batteries corresponds to one third of the cost from the fuel usage of the gasoline powered vehicles. It’s possible to drive an electric car for 70 km paying only 1 dollar in electricity (value calculated by the USA Energy Department). Besides that, the quantity of moving and filtering parts is smaller, causing a small mechanical wear.

Electric car recharge

Electric car being recharged

Nice driving – The electrical vehicles almost don’t produce any sound due to the small amount of moving parts in the engine and by the lack of an exhaust system. This results in a nice and cozy driving.

Driving with the electrical BMW i3

Cozy driving with the electrical BMW car (the BMW i3)