Is the Tesla “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) feature useful?
Image Credits: Tesla

Is the Tesla “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) feature useful?

The “Full Self-Driving” feature is an additional software package that Tesla sells for vehicles equiped with Autopilot 2 hardware or higher. The option is also called FSD for short. There is a controversial discussion among Tesla fans whether it makes sense to buy FSD or not.

To purchase “”Full Self-Driving” you need a vehicle with at least Autopilot 2 hardware. The idea behind this software: At some point in the future, Tesla will enable Level 5 autonomous driving by further developing the Autopilot. It can be assumed that Tesla will gradually enable other Autopilot functions under the FSD option, which will not be enabled under the Basic Autopilot. Differences between the different Autopilot versions are explained here. Official information about Tesla’s “Autopilot” option can be found here on the website.

Chronological development of Tesla FSD between 2016 and 2018

Starting in October 2016, Tesla began equipping all Model S and Model X with the “Enhanced Autopilot” hardware, also called AP2 or HW2.  The FSD option was offered at a special price of 3000 USD when purchased with the vehicle. Those who later wanted to purchase the software had to pay 4000 USD. Please note: the software had no additional benefit at that time. It was a pure investment in technology and hope to get it at some time in the future.

From the end of June 2018, Tesla increased the price for subsequent FSD orders from 4000 USD to 5000 USD.

In October 2018, Tesla removed the option to order FSD for a new vehicle in the configurator. However, it was still possible to order it for 3000 USD with a request to support when buying a new car. Also the subsequent order by existing customers for 5000 USD remained possible in this way. As already mentioned: the software had still no function.

At the same time, Elon Musk announced on Twitter that owners of the Tesla option “Full Self-Driving” would get the successor autopilot hardware 3 for free. It can be assumed that the FSD option will become more expensive in the future as the functionality increases.

In late 2018, Elon Musk announced on Twitter that the first FSD functions will be released at the same time as the Autopilot 3 hardware and that the FSD option will even be a requirement for the AP3 hardware:

Source: Twitter


FSD Changes since 2019

Update from 3. March 2019: For new car sales, changes to the autopilot functionality have been introduced. The “Basic Autopilot” is now sold free of charge with every vehicle. However, some features of the former paid “Enhanced Autopilot” have moved from the Basic Autopilot option to the FSD option. The following functions are only available for new cars from this date onwards by purchasing the FSD option:

  • Navigate on Autopilot” (NoA)
  • Automatic lane change on highways while driving with autopilot.
  • Automatic parking
  • Summon

The following unofficial graphic shows the different variants:


Update from 23. April 2019: Elon Musk clearly emphasized again at the investor presentation for the “Tesla Autonomy Day” that vehicles with AP2 or AP2.5 hardware can receive the update to the new AP3 computer. A prerequisite for this is the purchase of the FSD option. The differences of the autopilot hardware are described here. When buying FSD, the AP3 hardware is included in the price. The upgrade from AP2.0 and AP2.5 vehicles to AP3 will probably be available from the end of 2019. Tesla now calls the AP3 hardware “FSD Computer”. However, the use of the additional functions requires the purchase of the FSD option.

Update from 04. May 2019: The price for FSD was increased from 5000 $ to 6000 $.

Update from 27. July 2019: For owners of the former “Enhanced Autopilot” (EAP) option the price for FSD has been reduced again, because their FSD feature set is not as large as the new “Basic Autopilot” together with FSD. Now it currently costs 3000$ for EAP Owners.

Update from 21. Nov 2019: Meanwhile the first vehicles with AP2.5 hardware are upgraded to AP3 hardware. However, it is also becoming apparent that completely new autopilot functions will only be available for owners of FSD AND the “FSD Computer”. Since software version v10.1 traffic guidance cones are displayed.

Tesla erkennt Pylone
Image credits: Facebook

Update from 27. Dec 2019: With Software Upgrade 2019.40.50 the red light and stopp sign detection was enabled. But this works only with the AP3 “FSD Computer” Hardware:

Tesla red light detection

Tesla stopp sign detection

Update from 1.5.2020: Apparently Tesla plans to offer the FSD option as subscription in the future.

Update from 1.7.2020: Tesla has increased the price for FSD from 7000 to 8000 USD.

Confusing changes

As explained in the chart above, for new Tesla car purchases from 2019, some features will only be available with the purchase of the FSD option (Block D). Older vehicles are not affected. A comparison of the range of functions is also shown in the table in this article.

As Elon Musk again emphasized on the “Tesla Autonomy Day” in April 2019, Model S and X vehicles will be built with AP3 hardware only since about March 2019 and Model 3 from April 2019 on. There where some exceptions with the Model 3 with Standard Range Plus. During Summer 2019 only vehicles for which FSD has been ordered from the beginning where equipped with the AP3 computer right from factory. Obviously Tesla had to exhaust some HW2.5 stocks or had not enough HW3 produced. Now at the end of 2019 every new car seems to be delivered with Hardware 3.

In spite of all heretical voices something is obviously happening in the FSD area. The first functions “red light” and “stopp sign” detection where available in 2019. Tesla even plans to implement the ability to drive a vehicle completely autonomously in near future, which is hard to believe. After this release, the FSD function will then be used for the in-house robot taxi service. The whole thing seems very ambitious and it would not be the first time that Tesla has been unable to meet its announced deadlines. But one thing is certain: Even if they are sometimes late, they have always delivered so far.

Conclusion about Tesla FSD

Finally, it also remains to be seen how quickly the authorities will allow fully autonomous driving as soon as it becomes technically possible. But the proof that a robot drives statistically safer than a human being will probably speed this up significantly. By the way, a very good summary of the “Tesla Autonomy Day” can be found here and another interesting video about the FSD Functions is this one.

It remains exciting to see how the FSD functions will continue to evolve. Tesla started to upgrade the older Autopilot 2 and 2.5 computers. Eventually all vehicles would be upgraded to the FSD computer. However, owners without FSD would remain at their old level of functionality. Marketing technically this would be very clever, because it would encourage people to buy FSD and Tesla can make money again with most of the cars already sold. We already know this from the IT industry: The big money comes from software licenses, not from hardware sales.