You Can Get "Autopilot" Functionality For A Lot Less Than It Costs To Buy A Tesla

On Monday, we released our lease guide for the updated 2016 Honda Accord, which now offers available driver assistance technology called Honda Sensing.

To recap, Honda Sensing keeps a car centered in its lane and automatically adjusts vehicle speed based on traffic conditions. Its purpose is to enhance driver comfort and safety—not to entirely replace the driver, who is still responsible for controlling the vehicle. But under certain conditions, yes, the car can effectively drive itself.

Today, Tesla released details of their Autopilot system, which is also a suite of driver assistance features intended to enhance driver comfort and safety. 



Autopilot will be pushed to existing Model S cars built after September 2014 via an over-the-air software update by tomorrow.

Here’s what we know about Autopilot, and here's how Autopilot compares to Honda Sensing. In short, you'll find that an Accord with Honda Sensing offers much of the functionality of Autopilot for a whole lot less money. 

Key Points

  • Autopilot does not replace the driver. According to Tesla’s press release, "The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car."
  • Autopilot includes an Autosteer function, which keeps the car centered in its lane by observing lane markings and vehicles in front. Tesla, however, urges drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel. Autosteer will generally keep the car between lane markings, but eventually the system will sound a chime and bring the car to a halt if no driver input is detected.

What's Not New With Autopilot

  • Traffic-aware cruise control. Many cars, including the current Model S, offer it. This feature automatically adjusts vehicle speed to match that of the vehicle in front.
  • Autosteer. Several Mercedes, Infiniti, and indeed, Honda models offer it. These systems center the car in its lane. The Mercedes and Honda systems stop working if your hands are off the steering wheel for too long -- unless you tie something to the steering wheel to trick it. Infiniti's system will stay on until there's a problem.
  • Auto parallel parking. Many cars have this, even a $25,000 Ford Focus.  
  • Autonomous emergency braking and blind spot assist. Many cars have this, including the current Model S. The latest firmware improves its functionality.

What's Actually New 

  • Auto lane change. Under certain conditions, the car will automatically make a lane change if prompted by the driver. The system is activated through the turn signal. (The rest of Autopilot is activated via the cruise control stalk just below the turn signal stalk).
  • Quality of execution. Preliminary reports suggest the system works smoothly without much need for driver input. Autopilot release is in conjunction with a new user interface that shows the driver what the car is seeing.
  • Over-the-air updates. Inevitably there will be hardware limitations, but the system will most certainly improve over time. Additional features will be added.

Our Thoughts

  • Autopilot uses existing technology and hardware found on many other vehicles, but improves upon them by incorporating new features (i.e., auto lane changing) and a well-designed interface.

  • Autopilot sends a mixed message to the driver. According to Tesla, the driver’s hands must be on the steering wheel. Well, if your hands are on the wheel, then you may as well steer the car. Are we supposed to pat the wheel gently instead?  

Honda Sensing vs. Autopilot

  • Both systems offer adaptive cruise control, a lane keeping functionality, and autonomous emergency braking. Both can effectively drive themselves without any driver input under certain conditions.

  • Not found on Honda Sensing but available on Autopilot: auto lane change, blind spot detection, self-parking, and dynamic user interface.

  • Ultimately, Leasehackr is encouraged by the adoption of innovative driver assistance technologies that enhance safety. We applaud both Tesla and Honda for their leadership on this front.

So, in sum, an Accord equipped with Honda Sensing will center itself in a lane and modulate vehicle speed automatically, much like with Autopilot. It won't offer the same polish, but it does cost $50,000 less than a Model S. Or better yet, you can lease one for $257 per month.