Autopilot Showdown: Tesla P85D vs Mercedes E63S Wagon

Posted by: Bernard Winkelmann onOctober 20th, 2015


Tesla’s Autopilot function dropped over the air last week to all who have a car built in October 2014 and later. Cars built September 2014 and earlier don’t seem to have all the equipment necessary for Autopilot to function. At least, that is what I am gathering from some quick research I did. Tesla isn’t a company that has my attention at the moment as I feel you are paying a premium for an unfinished car. Updates come out sporadically and they have been slow to bring their new products, like the Model X, to market. In my head, electric cars are for the future, when we humans have figured out how to get electricity into batteries faster, or when we have battery change stations, or have batteries that last longer. Tesla is building the infrastructure to compete with the fossil fuel burning internal combustion engines, but you still really can’t match the convenience of gas stations or the range (1000 km from a dirty VW diesel) of oil burning vehicles. But enough about how I feel about the Model S, this is about the new Autopilot update.

Over the last few months, we have heard more and more about the Autopilot capabilities that Tesla was to release. It really sounded a lot like what Mercedes has had on the E-class for a couple of years now in feature they call (Distronic Plus with Steer Assist). I ordered that option on my car after seeing reviews where the car basically drove itself. It uses short, medium, and long range radar as well as stereoscopic cameras (fancy way of saying 2 cameras) to keep you in your lane and keep you from hitting the car in front of you. Early reports made the Tesla system sound very similar. The difference being that Tesla uses a single camera, 12 ultrasonic sensors as well as the GPS to guide the car.

To put it to the test, we found a local Tesla owner and forum member, Mitch, and asked if he would be interested in comparing the systems. Shelton, our third wheel and photographer, had plotted a course that would test many aspects of the Autopilot that included secondary roads, congested primary roads and freeways. He had quite the experience sitting in the back seat while we tested both systems.

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