Written on August 19, 2020
Author: Lewis Gavin

The TRUTH about Tesla and Full Self Driving in the UK

Tesla Smart Summon driving by itself

It’s the question on everyones mind when purchasing a Tesla. Should I buy the Full Self Driving (FSD) package?

I’ve owned my Tesla Model 3 with the Full Self Driving (FSD) package in the UK for almost a year and also watch a lot of Tesla YouTubers from the US (Notably Dirty Tesla) to get a good feel for differences in the US vs here in the UK.

This post will provide you with everything you need to know to make your decision and give you my thoughts at the end.

The Price

When purchasing a Tesla online and you hit the FSD add on page, you’ll be presented with a pretty steep add on price. This price changes fairly frequently however at the minute (August 2020) in the UK it sits at £6,800.

This unlocks features like Smart Summon, Navigate on Autopilot, Automatic Lane Changes and a bunch of other cool stuff that I’ll dive into later. The important thing to note is that it also means you get any new full self driving features as software updates, when they become available in the UK.

If someone told you that you’d get a car that can drive itself for an extra £6.8k, especially with the Model 3 start price for around £40k you’d rightly think it too good to be true. And it kinda is…

And here’s why. In the US, the FSD package is currently priced at $8000 (equivalent to around £6.2k). It unlocks the same features, however they get new features a lot earlier, some features work differently (and by differently I mean better) and yet the price remains the same.

Right now, the car doesn’t drive itself everywhere, it’s capabilities are mostly limited to motorway driving as here in the UK it can’t stop at traffic lights, make turns at junctions or into side streets or navigate roundabouts.

So at this price point, you’re also gambling that Tesla solve the full self driving problem with the current hardware available in your vehicle and if they don’t, that they’ll upgrade you for free (they have already done this for some older Teslas but doesn’t guarantee they will continue to do so going forward).

Tesla openly state when you purchase the feature that the price is likely to increase. Telsa full self driving price UK

So for £6,800 what you’re really paying for is the promise of Full Self Driving hence it being cheaper than you’d expect.

Let’s break down the popular features of FSD and see how they work in the UK compared to in the US.

Not So Smart Summon

When released, Smart Summon was all over social media for both good and bad reasons. I’ll start with the good. It was the first time that the car had driven all by itself. This is a HUGE step in autonomous driving, especially on a road legal vehicle. As you can see from the GIF below, the car can literally navigate around obstacles without a human present in the vehicle.

Tesla Smart Summon driving by itselfimage source

The purpose of this feature, was to allow owners to “Summon” their car on private land, maybe in a supermarket car park, to drive to them by itself. Meaning you could be at the front of the supermarket, ask your car to come drive itself to you and it would reverse out its parking spot and find its own way to you. Useful for when it’s raining or let’s face it, for showing off to friends.

Besides the fact that in most cases, it doesn’t follow any normal road rules at all so essentially becomes very confusing for other drivers, it quickly became a bit of a gimmick, but a cool feature nonetheless. However (and here comes the bad news) here in the UK, this feature is heavily restricted. Teslarati have a good article detailing this but essentially you can’t be more than 6 meters away from the car whilst using Smart Summon and it can only move a maximum of 20 meters.

Kind of pointless being able to move 20 meters really when you have to be within 6 meters of it yourself! You effectively have to walk along with your car whilst it’s driving itself, kinda like taking your dog for a walk.

With these restrictions it really is a gimmick as any practical use case is thrown right out the window.

NoA is probably Tesla’s most advanced feature as it allows the car to drive on public roads all by itself. A human driver still needs to be behind the steering wheel, ready to take over at any moment and provide feedback to the steering wheel to let the car know they’re still there. Apart from this, the idea of NoA is to have fully autonomous driving on all public roads.

Right now, NoA works best on motorways or long stretches of road. In the US the car can automatically decide when to change lane on the motorway, make sure you exit at the correct junction (all by itself) and take care of speed, maintaining distance from the cars in front and keeping the car in the lane.

When not on the motorway, if lane markings are present it can still drive by itself maintaining speed and steering, in the US it can even stop at traffic lights and stop signs.

Tesla recognising traffic lightsimage source

The major limitations at the minute are that the car can’t make turns off one road and onto another one (for example at a junction or turning down a side street) and it also can’t navigate roundabouts, something we have an abundance of here in the UK.

Speaking of which, the UK variant of FSD can drive on motorways, and take the correct exit by itself, but we have to manually confirm lane changes. This means the car will suggest a lane change to maintain the same speed for example, and we have to confirm that we’re happy by pushing the indicator in the correct direction.

In the UK the car can also recognise and display traffic lights and stop signs on the screen, however doesn’t actually do anything in relation to them yet. There are different laws and regulations that Tesla has to deal with in Europe that are preventing these features from advancing as quickly here as they do in the US.

Auto Park

The final feature worth talking about is Auto Park. It’s an older feature that hasn’t really been given much love in recent updates, however it does a job and might be something you bake into your FSD purchase decision.

As you might have guessed, auto park does exactly that, automatically parks the car for you, but with one caveat. You have to park between two other cars.

Yes you’re reading that correctly. It doesn’t identify any open parking bay and just park the car, you have to drive near bays that already have cars parked in the bays either side, only then will the car pick this up as a valid space and allow you to activate the Auto Park feature. The same goes for parallel parking too.

This isn’t the end of the world, if you think about it, you’re most likely going to need help when spaces are tight rather than when you have the whole parking lot to choose from. However it would be nice to be able to activate the feature anywhere.

The feature can also be used to self park a car in a garage, although I’ve never tried this feature, only watched it on YouTube.

Should you buy the Full Self Driving packing in the UK?

My short answer: YES, absolutely.

The more long winded answer is this. Even after all of the negatives I’ve outlined in this post, there are still an abundance of positives.

  • If any of these features sound even remotely useful to you right now then FSD is for you.
  • If the thought of only having to confirm lane changes on a long distance motorway drive sounds like heaven to you, then FSD is for you.
  • If you always buy the latest cutting edge mobile phone and love technology, then FSD is for you.

As you can see from the reasoning above. I don’t think you should buy FSD solely on the promise of its future functionality. If the features make sense to you and seem worth the price now then you should buy FSD. Your reward for being an early adopter will be access to all the future features at a heavily discounted price. However I would urge you to make the decision based on what’s available today.

This is what I did. As a software engineer and tech nerd, the answer was obvious to me. I didn’t pay for the performance model as the speed wasn’t important to me, the technology was. This is why I purchased FSD and it’s a decision I do not regret.

If you decide to take the leap, I don’t think you’ll regret it either.