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Entering 2023 Tesla Is Way Behind In Hands-Free Assisted Driving

The competition has passed Tesla by when it comes to automated assisted-driving technology. Here is a look at where the industry stands with regard to hands-free automated driving technology.

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Tesla is certainly the first car company one thinks of when it comes to “Full Self Driving” and “Autopilot.” Tesla did a fantastic job of picking the perfect buzzwords for its automated driver-assist systems. The technology Tesla offers varies from month to month, its pricing and even its pricing system seem very fluid, and when we last checked, the vast majority of Tesla buyers steered clear of paying for full self-driving.

Rather than planning for hands-free driver-assisted operation, Tesla is instead bolstering its anti-cheating systems to ensure drivers keep their hands on the wheel when using FSD and Autopilot.

By contrast, five brands are presently delivering models with automated driving assistance technology that allows a driver to cover many miles with their hands off the wheel and pedals. The car will steer, accelerate, and brake all by itself. You may think that this technology would be rare and super expensive (given Tesla’s price model), but actually, hands-free driver-assist technology is available for as little as $2,200 on a vehicle costing less than $35,000. Many models from many brands now offer this feature. The easy part is counting the Teslas with this technology. Zero.

Super Cruise info courtesy of GMChevrolet - Super Cruise
Chevrolet is GM’s value brand, and its Chevy Bolt line is one of its most value-packed pair of models. We've tested both generations of the Bolt five-door hatchback and have had a chance to twice test the newer Bolt EUV model, which offers optional hands-free Super Cruise. A Bolt EUV Premier with hands-free Super Cruise can be purchased for under $35,000, including destination charges. The optional Super Cruise package included in that price costs just $2,200. We tested hands-free Super Cruise in the Bolt EUV Premier on public roads over a year ago for the first time and found that it worked just as advertised. You set it and then sit in the car while it does the driving. Paying attention to the situation, of course, so you can save the day if anything should go wrong. It never did while we were an occupant using the system.

When self-driving technology first began to emerge, most automotive experts (myself included) figured that it would only be offered on all-new battery-electric vehicles since it would require a lot of energy to drive its sensors. We also assumed serious forethought would be required to work all of its technology into the new design. Nope. GM offers Super Cruise hands-free automated driver assist on its Silverado pickup. The very definition of a traditional gas-powered vehicle.

Image of Super Cruise in use courtesy of CadillacGM Super Cruise In Buick, Cadillac, and GMC Models
GM isn’t just offering Super Cruise in its affordable Bolt EUV and most popular-selling pickup. The hands-free driver-assist technology is offered on all of the company’s brands. It is available now on many Cadillac and GMC models, and Buick will get it in 2023. The pricey brands will get some extra goodies that make it even more Super.

Ford and Lincoln BlueCruise
Ford has its version of hands-free driver assist technology on the road today. Initially called Active Drive Assist, Ford’s hands-free driver-assist tech is now marketed as BlueCruise. It is found on multiple Ford and Lincoln-branded vehicles. It is a lot like Super Cruise, but,

Mercedes Drive Pilot
Mercedes-Benz has a hands-free driver-assist system it calls Drive Pilot in operation in the European market today on its S-Class. The rollout is expected to expand beyond just the company’s flagship and into other markets like the US in 2023.

Nissan ProPilot Assist and Toyota Emergency Driving Stop System
Both Nissan and Toyota are now including technology on newer models that monitors the driver’s inputs to determine if they have a medical emergency. If the driver is found to be inattentive or non-responsive, the vehicle can self-drive itself safely to a stop.

What Ever Happened To Tesla’s Robotaxi Program?
Back in early 2019, Elon Musk told us that managing a small fleet of robotaxis would soon be a career for many. In early 2019, Musk told investors at the Tesla Autonomy Day that he had high confidence the company would have robotaxis on the road operating legally within multiple US jurisdictions by 2020. On a related topic, he also claimed that Tesla would have cars in its portfolio with such advanced self-driving technology they would not even be equipped with steering wheels or pedals. Two years later, the promise is renewed.

We won’t leave Tesla on this negative point. Elon Musk has been rather busy managing a manufacturing company in states that would not allow him to operate during a pandemic (while other states continued to work). He has been helping Ukraine kill Russians on the battlefield by providing a vast network of satellite enable communications. He is also now committed to helping preserve free speech in America by giving Twitter a reboot. This author’s honest opinion is that he can be forgiven if it takes a few more years before he puts all the rideshare workers out of a job.

Self-Driving Gimmicks Abound
We’re pretty cautious about using the term “self-driving.” The folks who live for correcting any departure from what they view as the proper terminology are just too rigorous not to get it right. But cars do sometimes drive themselves today. Tesla can sell you a car that will not only self-drive itself in a parking lot, but do so when you are not even in it. So can Hyundai. And Ford was a pioneer in letting your car parallel park for you back in the stone age of automobiles. That self-driving function is now so common nobody pays it any mind.

Hands-Free “Driving” In 2023
Occupying an automobile while it steers, brakes, and accelerates is already possible today from a half-dozen brands, with many more to come. Watch for 2023 to be a big year for many more brands and models to be equipped with such technology. Will Tesla offer it? Hard to say. We can’t sort the hype from reality anymore, and we are starting to think that may have been the plan all along.

Image of hands-free BlueCruise in use courtesy of Ford. Image of Super Cruise in use courtesy of GM.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American news outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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Lars (not verified)    December 7, 2022 - 3:19PM

You missed the best system yet: BMW Just introduced the Driving Assist Plus Feature in the new 7 series and i7.

Tom Walker (not verified)    December 11, 2022 - 6:05AM

In reply to by Lars (not verified)

And does anyone know that GM, Ford, BMW, Mercedes and many others all use Seeing Machines industry leading eye tracking AI algorithms to make their systems safe..... Seems to be a secret !!

John Goreham    December 13, 2022 - 11:46AM

In reply to by ScottR (not verified)

Great question, ScottR. Yes. Of course. Ford's Blue Cruise has lane-change functionality, and GM offers hands-free lane-changing in its more advanced and more expensive version. For safety, GM's advanced Super Cruise hands-free system suspends lane change functionality when trailering. GM's less expensive Super Cruise, like that found in the Bolt EUV for $2,200 does not offer lane change functionality. BMW demonstrated a prototype hands-free lane change driver assist product in 2014, but I have not yet tested its most recent system now starting to ship in its vehicles.

Kirk (not verified)    December 12, 2022 - 7:50PM

Obviously the author is unaware of the full self driving feature on Tesla. I have gone on several trips where my Tesla did all of the driving for 2-3 hours with zero interaction from me. I'm talking from my house, through my neighborhood, on small highways, to several interstates, exit, more surface streets in a major city, etc.

It handles stop signs, traffic lights, road construction, slow drivers, onramps, interchanges, offramps, and more. I did nothing but hold the wheel and watch.

Nothing else comes close. Probably the author is just looking at the basic autopilot functionality.

Nick Simpson (not verified)    December 18, 2022 - 4:59AM

This story is misleading, if the author were to do even a small amount of research, they would see that what Tesla is building is lightyears ahead of what any other company is even attempting. It has taken a little longer than expected, but FSD beta is approaching a state that could be considered releasable.