Tesla leads all other automakers in autonomous safety features

As any owner of a newer Tesla will tell you, the company is having some issues bringing Autopilot 2.0 up to full functionality. However, compared to other automakers’ autonomy offerings, Tesla is still well ahead of the pack in many ways. 


Above: A look at Tesla's sensor suite on the Model S (Source: Car and Driver)

A new report from the auto industry experts at Edmunds (via Bloomberg), ranks automakers according to the autonomous safety features (blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, collision avoidance, etc.) they offer. Tesla is the clear leader, followed by Volvo and Honda.

“Active safety features are coming faster than we thought, and on a wide variety of vehicles,” said Edmunds Analyst Jessica Caldwell. “These features are the stepping stones to fully autonomous driving.”

Over 60% of models on the market this year offer some sort of autonomous safety features, compared with less than 25% in 2012. Many of these active safety features are offered as options, but increasingly automakers, especially luxury brands, are making them standard features. Bloomberg’s ranking assigned companies a higher score for features that are standard rather than optional, part of the reason Tesla took the prize.


Above: Tesla tops the rankings for active safety features (Source: Bloomberg)

InsideEVs points out that Toyota, which came in sixth in the rankings, is now offering Toyota Safety Sense on many base models, and speculates that this is because many consumers have proven unwilling to pay extra for new features that they are still unfamiliar with. Half the drivers surveyed by Edmunds said they’d pay extra for blind-spot detection and pre-collision systems, but their interest in other features was tepid.

Of course, as the old saying goes, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Tesla intends to make driving as safe as possible, even if it means turning human drivers into passengers. The quest to achieve full autonomy continues, although in light of the setbacks since Tesla switched hardware suppliers, some pundits are skeptical that the company can attain the Grail with the current hardware suite. However, in a recent conference call with stock analysts (via Electrek), Elon Musk reiterated his confidence.

“I think that we will be able to achieve full autonomy with the current hardware,” said Musk. “The question is - it’s not just full autonomy, but full autonomy with what level of reliability and what will be acceptable to regulators. But I feel quite confident that we can achieve human-level, or approximately human-level autonomy, with the current computing hardware. Now, regulators may require some significant margin above human capability in order for full autonomy to be engaged. They may say that it needs to be 50% safer, or 100% safer, 1,000% safer, I don’t know. I’m not even sure they know either, but I’m confident that we can get to approximately human level with our current hardware.”


Above: Tesla Model S (Image: Tesla)

Musk also hinted at an upcoming Autopilot hardware announcement. “We’ll have more to say on the hardware front soon, we’re just not ready to say anything now. But I feel very optimistic on that front.”

If it does turn out that new hardware is needed to achieve full autonomy, Tesla owners will receive the necessary upgrade for free: “For customers that have signed up for full software capability, we’ll push that option [i.e. add it through an over-the-air software update]. If it does turn out that a computer upgrade is necessary in order to meet the regulatory requirements in that area, we will replace the computer with something with greater power, which is just unplugging the old one, plugging the new one in.”

The bottom line: Tesla isn’t planning a bait-and-switch. It has promised full autonomy, and it means to deliver it, even if it means updating the hardware suite.


Above: Tesla's sleek, subtle design keeps Autopilot sensors unobtrusive on the exterior of the vehicle (Image: Tesla)

Exactly what does that hardware suite consist of? 2025 AD, a site that follows the autonomous vehicle scene, has created a handy infographic that explains the various types of sensors that enable driverless cars to perceive the world around them.



Written by: Charles Morris; Infographic: 2025 AD