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Autopilot - Tesla talks the talk while Honda walks the walk

Tesla has announced it will be able to do in future months what almost all car makers can now do, and many have already done.

Tesla this week announced that at some point in the coming months it will be selling cars with what it terms autopilot. The cars will have adaptive cruise control which is the starting point for these systems. Most car makers have had this technology for over a decade. The Tesla will also have lane keeping assist, which also has been in most luxury cars for a full generation or two now. Honda calls the system in its current cars LKAS (Lane Keeping Assist Steering). The Tesla cars will be priced from roughly $70K to $140K. Before tax breaks of course. Two to four times what the Hondas cost (no tax breaks of course).

Driving a Car On Autopilot
Today I travelled on the highway in the Boston Metro area in a production vehicle that did not require me to do anything unless the highway turned sharply. The vehicle I was in can follow the car in front of it at a safe, adjustable distance, and come to a full stop if it does. And it of course it can maintain its speed at whatever setting I choose if I am alone on the highway. The car steers itself. About every mile or two the car required that I grip the wheel just to be sure I was still involved a little. My kids thought I was kidding them by steering with my knees or somehow tricking them. I drove about four miles in light traffic without having to do anything other than touch the wheel every minute or so.

Autopilot Is Here Now
This vehicle, and many like it from a variety of brands, are now available for prices in the mid-$30K range and can be bought from stock on dealer lots. I happened to be in a 2015 Honda CRV with an MSRP of $32K. The first time I drove a car that could do this was a few years ago and it was a Mercedes SL. The cool thing about self-driving cars is that the affordable makes are keeping pace with the high-priced luxury ones.

All Automakers Can do This
Autonomously piloted cars are not going to be goofy geek-mobiles like the stories you see in the mainstream press. Nor are they going to just be over-hyped green-washed supercars. Rather, they are going to be the same cars we already know and love. Autonomous driving, or “autopilot” as Tesla calls it, has already begun, and it will continue to evolve. BMW offers traffic jam assist that will drive for you in traffic. Cadillac has a self-driving highway system similar to the one Honda now very quietly sells. Cars that can parallel park themselves, and also un-park themselves are so common now it is just not news. I reviewed a Ford Escape recently and didn’t even mention it. Does Tesla have that?

Tesla's Coolest Autopilot Feature
The Tesla system, once available at some future point, will have a cool new feature. It will change lanes for you if the lane is open. You will simply have the system in the correct setting, and it will change the lane for you if you put on the turn signal (called “yah cah blinkah” in my area). Like many systems of this type, I don’t know why I want that, but I am willing to try it and see how I like it.

Although I have not read it yet, I assume Tesla will also have forward collision prevention, which has been around now for many years. Subaru has what is considered by experts at IIHS the best system in the world of its type to prevent forward collisions right now in its Outback family wagon. When the Tesla system comes out the mass media will be wowed because they don’t know what they don’t know.

*Note - Author is not the driver shown in the video

Read More:
2015 Honda CR-V: Superior standard features value and utility
2015 Honda CR-V sets new industry benchmark
For our Honda reporter's take on the new CRV's capabilities, please see this link.


Jon (not verified)    October 13, 2014 - 7:35PM

Someone obviously either did not read into the specifics on the difference between Tesla's auto-pilot and other luxuries' drive assist or is just bias.

Tesla's autopilot is currently the only one where hands off driving is allowed, adjusts to speed limits with signs and database, can park without a driver and more than parallel park and can be called to drive up to you. Not to mention all the necessary hardware is there to improve the autopilot and all that will be necessary are wireless OS updates to further improve it.

John Goreham    October 13, 2014 - 10:03PM

In reply to by Jon (not verified)

Will the future Tesla auto park system be like the one Nissan demonstrated two years ago? Or will it be more like the one Volvo demonstrated 18 months ago. Or the Ford system form about a year ago? So many cool new autopilot and auto-park systems just around the corner. "Early next year" is what we have read about the Tesla. Nissan:


Parks McCants    October 13, 2014 - 8:44PM

Welcome to my world John Goreham. No shortage of scoffers and Trolls here! Let's kick it up a notch..Jon... Yes, the Tesla system sounds like to bomb baby. However, Honda just participated in a hands-free 8 mile loop of Detroit in a demonstration of a not too future remote controlled highway. In that case the Honda utilized, entered the highway, adjusted speed to traffic, exited the highway and parked without the participation of the driver. While I do admire Tesla spawned technology, it's not proprietary. Honda R&D and robotics is decades ahead of the curve. Like Goreham says: Everyone has it, or something like it. The technology is the future for high density city driving and has existed in Tokyo for well over a year.

Kirk Hilles (not verified)    October 14, 2014 - 11:54AM

I follow the Edmunds blog which reviews a ton of new vehicles and drives them for 20k-30k and I have yet to hear of a semi-automated system which is even close to being helpful. Most are annoying systems that not only require you to have your hands on the wheel, but only work within certain speeds or in certain situations. I'm not aware of ANY manufacturer making the claims that Tesla is, nor have I heard of any people that have a vehicle (at ANY cost) that essentially drives itself on the highway.

We will see how the Tesla system actually works in reality, but I see it being at least a year (or more) ahead of the competition. Just because self-parking systems have been around for awhile doesn't mean that they actually work.

Kinda reminds of the Android fan boys that like to claim that some random phone model had it first. Its not a matter of being first, its a matter of getting it RIGHT. The Model S, I believe, will be the first model where you can actually begin to trust the car to start driving itself.

John Goreham    October 14, 2014 - 12:16PM

In reply to by Kirk Hilles (not verified)

Tesla is for sure the best at making claims. Elon is very glib. I was in a Honda CRV last night that drove itself on the highway. You can buy one now. Mine is not special. It is a production car for sale everywhere. Tesla may move the bar a bit when it comes out with its system in six months to a year from now, but the technology it uses is available on vehicles that are made by pretty much every manufacturer. If these systems prove popular it is hard to see how Tesla is at anything but a disadvantage. My last three test vehicles, an Infiniti, a Jeep, a Honda had adaptive cruise control as well as auto-braking and forward collision prevention. Tesla does not offer these systems. It will. Most manufacturers will be on their second generation of such systems when Tesla finally launches its first. It is not about being first, as you say, but technology evolves and car companies learn more with each actual generation.

Kirk Hilles (not verified)    October 14, 2014 - 3:15PM

In reply to by John Goreham

I am VERY excited about Self Driving Cars and am wanting a solution to not only make bumper to bumper traffic more enjoyable, but make trips (which are 90%+ highway driving) more enjoyable as well.

Walk me through this on the CRV. I'm looking on Honda's website for the 2015 model and I'm seeing the Lane Keeping Assist system and a Collision Braking system (which looks to be emergency braking). I'm not seeing anything that really compares to what Tesla is going to offer. What system(s) does your CRV have that allow you to be able to commute back and forth and go on trips on the highway and have it be automated?

A lot of these systems seem like a good start, but I'm not seeing that path to where you can sit back and relax like Tesla seems to be offering. Maybe that won't be the reality, but that seems to be what they are claiming.

Johnny (not verified)    October 14, 2014 - 4:25PM

You missed the point. Yes, most car makers have had this technology for over a decade, but Tesla, the company itself, didn't exist over a decade ago. Elon just assembled the autopilot team last year, and this is how much that team has accomplished so far. We didn't get excited because of adaptive cruise control. We're excited because of what to come. What would Tesla accomplish next year or five years from now if this is what they accomplished in a single year? That's what exciting about Tesla. This is why there is so much talk about the future is here.

John Goreham    October 16, 2014 - 3:44PM

In reply to by Vic Garbutt (not verified)

Almost all have that now available as part of the adaptive cruise control package. The CRV has it, as did the last three test cars I had, none of which were premium brands. The radar system is key to all adaptive cruise control systems which have been on the market for over a decade.

John Goreham    October 16, 2014 - 3:47PM

In reply to by Vic Garbutt (not verified)

All the top premium brands have this technology. The German premium brands have been selling it now for a while. Here is a 2-year old Car and driver story about the topic. By the way, not sure why I'd care if the object was a moose or human since hitting either results in a very bad day.

John Goreham    October 16, 2014 - 3:53PM

I don't mean to pick on Vic G (he may be kidding) but the posts point out what I mean by many people discussing this topic "don't know what they don't know." Elon is an amazingly convincing speaker. He can make 10 year old technology sound great to those that have not owned it or seen it yet. - - This does not diminish his amazing track record of success. Nor does it mean we don't think the Model S is an excellent vehicle (for those very few that can afford it). However, on the topic of driver assist systems, active safety, and "autopilot" Tesla is behind, not ahead of the industry as a whole.

Kevin (not verified)    November 18, 2015 - 10:46AM

This article turned out to be completely wrong. None of these vehicles are doing anything on the scale of what Tesla does with its autopilot...Tesla is pushing the limits with its tech while these solutions are not even close to it.

John Goreham    November 18, 2015 - 12:53PM

In reply to by Kevin (not verified)

Except that over a year ago when the story was written Honda had driving aids you could buy and drive (we did drive it) on vehicles priced at half of the cost of a Tesla Model S. Tesla had no active driver aids at that time. Have you tried the Honda Acura ACC and LKAS system?

Parks McCants    November 19, 2015 - 2:33PM

In reply to by John Goreham

Good morning. Tuesday evening following the Los Angeles Connectivity Conference, I drove a 2016 Acura TLX Advance from downtown Los Angeles to to the beach (40+ miles) mostly hands-free and most definitely without applying the brakes or adjusting the rate of speed in very heavy stop and go, freeway traffic. And yes, the active safety systems in TLX would bring the car to a complete stop, recognize changing cross traffic, while guiding the car to its destination via navigation. Every manufacturer will adapt this technology in the short term as urbane centers transition to the self-driving car and light truck.

Eric Scott (not verified)    March 18, 2016 - 2:28AM

Don't y'all fell silly now after bashing Tesla a few years ago...their technology blows away all other vehicles on the market, and they are the only automaker that will upgrade every vehicle with software updates...for FREE...NOBODY else will do that other than NAv Amp software for over $250...with up to 2 year old map data