CARS.COM — Unbeknownst to most consumers, many established automakers and their suppliers have been researching vehicle autonomy since before Tesla Motors existed, and semi-autonomous safety features have been working their way into cars from many brands for several years. So why is Tesla getting so much attention for the Autopilot feature it rolled out in October 2015? To find out how well it works, and how it may differ from other automakers’ semi-autonomous features, I went for a spin in a 2016 Model S P90D equipped with the option, which costs $2,500.
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Without question, the external elements seem the same as in other cars with active-safety features: a host of sensors to determine what’s around the car. Where some cars use a forward-looking camera or radar unit, the most effective ones I’ve experienced employ both, as does the Model S. They’re supplemented by 12 visible sonar sensor buttons in the Model S’ front and rear bumpers that, in lieu of additional radar, also allow it to “see” to the back and sides.