Tesla’s Open Secret: The Auto Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know About Tesla Model S Autopilot vs. Mercedes S-Class Distronic

Guest post courtesy of Frank O. Clark, Ph.D
Plump disclosure: The creator owns a 2016 Tesla Model S, a 2019 Mercedes S-Class, and some Tesla stock.

I drive a Tesla Model S 90D that I sold fresh in 2016, and comprise since loved 60,000 effort-free miles. I indulge in the vehicle each as my day-to-day driver and for long toll road trips from Modern England to the Deep South. Electric drive however, it’s the splendid driving vehicle I truly comprise ever owned. It outperforms and out-handles my Porsche 911, and out-comforts my Mercedes.

Lately, my Tesla Model S started reporting “low battery coolant,” and Tesla provider had no loaners (they equipped Uber credit for getting ). The pandemic being in elephantine swing, and me pushing 80, I became once alive to to salvage my COVID vaccine as quickly as likely. I discovered the nearest vaccine hospital, which became once an hour drive away and jumped at the likelihood to register. Not on the lookout for to fiddle with Uber, I believed it became once time to bolster my plug. I indulge in my Tesla Model S so vital that I ordered the fresh Tesla Model S Plaid+ for its longer differ, improved autosteer, prep for elephantine self driving, and upgraded cameras and security parts. The handiest tell became once that my change would not be delivered for a twelve months. What to withhold out? This bought me thinking.

I completely researched the total published and on-line literature, blogs, and comments on which vehicle had the splendid autosteer! The pandemic stored me from your entire interaction required to are attempting all of them out. I became once literally skittish to drive the vehicle with another unknown particular person in it.

I truly comprise continually wished a Mercedes S-Class, for the toll road-silent, luxurious, and your entire things I indulge in about how Mercedes makes vehicles. I had a 15 twelve months mature E-Class that I extinct to think became once the splendid toll road vehicle I had ever owned, but it became once getting long in the tooth. So after reading opinions that talked about the Mercedes “Distronic” guidance became once as simply, or better than, Tesla’s autosteer, I indulged myself and sold a 1-twelve months-mature factory-certified Mercedes S560 with a brand fresh vehicle warranty as a contrivance to drive it except my fresh Plaid+ became once delivered, after which withhold it as a backup. (It became once the splendid one I might per chance well per chance accumulate in the Boston metro jam with “Distronic guidance” as a result of the chip scarcity.)

As with any fresh vehicle, I bonded with it for several hours after taking birth, atmosphere up the Bluetooth, infotainment, etc. 

Having gotten extinct to the simplicity of Tesla’s intuitive interface, I discovered this process in my fresh Mercedes to be inordinately cumbersome and frustratingly convoluted. I study the manual about a hundred times, tried over and over, and couldn’t change the “radio” from Sirius XM (with which Mercedes — in hindsight — I believe must comprise some affiliation) to undeniable FM. This baffled me, and it baffled my partner. A Ph.D. geek and an M.D. who’s a elephantine professor in the Harvard Scientific College, and neither of us might per chance well per chance determine how to change the rattling radio. (Finally, a youtube video defined it. Thank you!)

As the day of my vaccine appointment drew nearer, I persisted to fiddle with the controls and settings, and at closing bought all the pieces working. Nonetheless even once fully and wisely configured, operation remained cumbersome and unintuitive. I truly began lacking my Tesla Model S.

Finally, the mountainous day arrived and I excitedly drove the Mercedes to my vaccine hospital destination about 50 miles away. This would give me the change to truly secure the Distronic guidance and adaptive cruise administration thru their paces on a minute salvage admission to toll road. My expectations were excessive as I left my driveway, recollections of all these broad opinions swimming in my head. My senses were all on excessive alert to explore and indulge in what had been described as a superior trip. As I entered the toll road and engaged my cruise and Distronic autosteer, I literally couldn’t take into accout the variation between Tesla autosteer and Mercedes Distronic guidance.

I drove the mountainous Mercedes an hour to the west, and the Mercedes Distronic autosteer became once worse than unlucky. It works, barely, but the reviewers who talked about it became once better than Tesla’s machine comprise clearly by no formula pushed a Tesla. How can they write opinions indulge in this with a straight face? I’m not positive I mosey to take into accout any of these vehicle opinions anymore. It’s truly not even in the identical class as Tesla! I became once stunned and even extra embarrassed for Mercedes. It felt downright harmful.

Puzzled, and alarmed by this stark diversion from expectations, I studied the toll road cases for clues to what’s going to most seemingly be inflicting this form of serious malfunction. It became once then I might per chance well per chance survey why the Mercedes Distronic self guidance had so miserably failed. There were stretches on the Massachusetts Turnpike with handiest one line, usually the left lacking, usually the simply lacking, several stretches with no traces at all, and some where the traces were indistinct.

Right here is an instance of how the Tesla brand has change into an integral section of my driving that I don’t take into accout. The Tesla brand tells me all of this with on-hide hide lane markers that expose when it’ll detect wisely spaced dotted or solid lane markers. The Mercedes would not.

Autosteer in the Tesla gets updated persistently, and has improved quite loads since I sold the vehicle. In my history of driving with it, Tesla guidance would not change anything when one line disappears, and by no formula misses a beat when each traces go. It flippantly continues with out criticism or hesitation as it if truth be told reads the seams in the asphalt, as I had seen closing summer season when driving over fresh pavement. I might per chance well per chance survey these on the brand, but not as a extraordinary mountainous solid line indicating a successfully study dotted lane marker, correct a puny slim line. This reinforces what I had not realized, that the Tesla brand and autosteer comprise correct naturally change into a aspect of my freeway driving sensory perception. I supervise, but the vehicle drives.

Right here is correct a amazing widget for older drivers, distracted drivers, or fresh drivers — briefly, any one. Autopilot is silly on. It’s indulge in the Tesla is on rails, whereas the Mercedes acts indulge in it had been on a drunken bender.

The handiest reason I successfully-known these stretches in my Tesla is since the colorful inexperienced traces on the central brand that expose me the autosteer is detecting and reading these lane markers disappeared. That made me perceive for the explanation, and it became once then obvious that there had been no lane markers at mad about a stretch. Present that this also formula that the Tesla brand nudges you to pay extra consideration to toll road cases that we might per chance well per chance in some other case brush off.

Tesla’s autosteer is light years forward. Right here’s a HUGE point for me given my age. I’m a really protected, cautious, and executed driver, but on the freeway, the Tesla autosteer if truth be told drives better than I elevate out, hands down. It senses things before I get up on them, and the newer fashions, with cameras for the duration of and dedicated compute threads for prognosis of every digicam, elevate out even better. The Mercedes felt downright harmful compared. It had sloppy lane-keeping and delayed response times making me think I needed to intervene several times. I felt I couldn’t aloof down and belief it.

As we age, we’re extra with out effort distracted and don’t withhold along with your entire things going on spherical us to boot to we extinct to. Our reflexes and cognition decelerate. The disagreement between my Tesla and the Mercedes made me realize correct how simply Tesla’s Autopilot if truth be told is at “helping” my driving.

And right here is the industry’s greatest birth secret simply now. EV or not, Tesla has basically the most advanced vehicles, security parts, and client interface of any vehicle on this planet. It already makes driving extra an act of supervision. When elephantine self-driving comes out, this might per chance occasionally be so superior to every other vehicle there will seemingly be no comparison. The auto industry is aware of this and doesn’t desire you to. They must bury this truth. They must promote and pork up talking heads who extol the advantages of older producers, and disparage Tesla.

Not handiest is the inner combustion engine doomed, but so is every vehicle producer on this planet rather than for most most seemingly Volkswagen. The Detroit mountainous 3 are in point of fact “silly males walking.” Folk will resolve these items for some time, because many members don’t indulge in to study fresh programs of doing things, and driving a Tesla is nothing indulge in driving any ICE vehicle on this planet. Nonetheless the word goes to spread as extra individuals realize what I’m realizing. Elon Musk goes to promote hundreds of vehicles, not because they are electric, but since the computer client interface is so simply! Any individual who if truth be told buys one goes to attain right here is a special ball game, above and beyond the electric section.

This truly is an “iPhone vs. Raspberry” moment, even supposing other vehicles switch to electric motors and batteries. I didn’t fully esteem correct how advanced Tesla machine is, except I sold the Mercedes. A Tesla is a computer on wheels. The battery and electric motor are incidental. I predict that Tesla goes to change into the #1 automobile for seniors. With know-how this simply, Tesla can prolong your “protected driving” years critically. Once Musk perfects “elephantine self driving,” even supposing it handiest is official in determined weather, that can present extra mobility! Take into tale that. I’m seeing it first hand, I’m in a position to “truly feel” the variation, especially on the toll road, but even with my 5-twelve months-mature outdated Mobileye sensor, the Tesla is light years safer correct driving down the toll road on the town. It tells me all the pieces that is taking place. I didn’t fully esteem how vital I had come to count on it except I didn’t comprise it anymore.

No wonder there are individuals on the get persistently badmouthing Tesla’s “Autopilot” and “Plump Self Using.” The mountainous vehicle producers must be shy witless in the occasion that they truly perceive what’s taking place, and they want to be. It formula they are with out a doubt history. I now truly esteem the individuals on the get who comprise talked about Tesla does the boring stuff better than we present out. They are secure on. Especially the “better than we present out” section. These are adolescents. Finest wait except the elderly salvage this message! It’s perfectly determined when you drive a Tesla.

Yes, the interface is assorted, so this might per chance occasionally get a puny getting extinct to, but updates are continually straightforward to determine intuitively. I’m not positive any one truly appreciates this aspect of Tesla but, the true fact that Musk has simply built a more in-depth mousetrap.

This review is a right-world, apples-to-apples comparison between my 2016 Tesla S and the 2019 Mercedes. The next are the scores I give every of them in core areas.

Connecting my phone by the usage of bluetooth:

Mercedes: A
Connected with out effort. The wireless charging works flawlessly.

Tesla: A-
Wireless charging not on hand in this model. 


Mercedes: D
Acts indulge in it’s been on a drunken bender.

Tesla: A+
Rock-solid reliability and intuitive efficiency. Drives indulge in it’s on rails!

Adaptive cruise administration:  

Mercedes: B
Not as simply as Tesla 4 years ago, and no contest at present time. It works, but not even in the identical class as Tesla. It slows down for no reason, and correct isn’t very terribly functional on the freeway. 

Tesla: A+


Mercedes: F-
I study the manual about a hundred times, tried over and over, and couldn’t change the “radio” from Sirius XM (with which Mercedes — in hindsight — I believe must comprise some affiliation) to undeniable FM. This baffled me and my partner — a Ph.D. geek and an M.D. who’s a elephantine professor in the Harvard Scientific College.

Tesla: A+

Android Auto:  

Mercedes: F-
“You presumably can, but it’s likely you’ll well per chance presumably not.” I’m in a position to survey Android Auto on the sub menu, but it claims no phone is linked, even supposing I’m in a position to study the contacts checklist on the phone, invent phone calls, and even navigate off one of the most most contacts (the vehicle claimed an “invalid layout” after I informed it to navigate residence by the usage of the contact checklist with my title! It’s form of telling that the Tesla has no tell with this address, which, in hindsight, became once not imputed into the contact checklist exactly wisely.). I did simply that address to invent it absolute best, so now the Mercedes works too. I contacted my salesperson at the provider, who’s quite nice, intriguing, and appears to be like to perceive these items successfully, to expose me how to salvage it to work on Android Auto (it’s a ways, after all, already installed on the phone, and I tried it each with AA running and not). The major became once that the phone needed to be physically plugged in to 1 specific outlet, bluetooth became once insufficient. Right here is an instance of stovepipe integration of objects, all the contrivance thru which the intention (objects) can not consult with every other. In a Mercedes S560?

Tesla: NA
Has its comprise proprietary navigation machine. Better than Google and Apple maps, so interface isn’t very compulsory. Genuinely. I give it an A+.

Explain Instructions:

Mercedes: C-
Mercedes convey instructions are hit or omit. I bought them to work a few times, and they did what I wanted, but either they’d well not work when the vehicle is intelligent (which is when you happen to truly desire them), or they went on strike, as I tried them several times on the style assist and bought the “duhh” response (as in no response). These are positively of outlandish quality and functionality.

Tesla: A


Mercedes: C-
The fact that the phone in a Mercedes needs to be physically linked by a cable to 1 specific USB port, irrespective of already being bluetooth linked for phone feature and sitting on the wireless charging pad in the vehicle, is one extra instance of a bailing wire and duct tape advance to aspect “integration.” The “integration” section formula that it’s a ways ready to brand on the built-in hide hide, but is unable to fragment depraved-functionality with anything else. I might per chance well per chance perceive this on a low-price vehicle, but right here is a Mercedes S560, the tip of the line.

Tesla: A
I had not fully hottest correct how vital work Tesla had done by building all the pieces in-residence and writing all of their very comprise machine from scratch.


Mercedes: B
Huge materials and elevate out. Finest consolation.

Tesla: A
In a single among the Elon Musk–Sandy Munro interviews, they each commented on Tesla seats as being successfully-known. Tesla makes their very comprise seats in-residence. I believed that became once nutty after I first heard it. Sandy Munro commented that he had been in a Tesla seat for some unGodly amount of time, over a day, and he serene felt elegant. Musk talked about it became once because they engineered out the stress parts in the seats. This might per chance per chance seem indulge in a minute point, but twice I made the day out assist up and down the East Flee with out stopping, 18 hours plus charging, correct napped in the vehicle all the contrivance thru charging, and I truly comprise to agree that this nutcase billionaire with the teenage mind (hint: I indulge in it!) has engineered some blissful seats. This correct reinforces my old realization, that Musk has built the splendid vehicle (headroom as you salvage internal and out being the exception, but that is imposed by the batteries), even when you neglect about the electric section. (My mature Tesla has his fresh seats because I paid quite loads extra for them after I sold the vehicle.)

Editor’s fresh: Trace our tales from CleanTechnica’s queer tour of the Tesla seat factory and interviews with the head engineers there:

I think we’re serene the splendid media firm to tour the Tesla seat factory. What a lucky privilege!

Total trip, client interface ranking:  

Mercedes: C+/B-
On par with every other legacy vehicle firm. 

Tesla: A+
There is simply no contest. Right here is one aspect of Tesla that I along with each review I truly comprise study has missed. I had not truly hottest this ample. Yes, Tesla is selling a invent of electrical transport, but extra importantly, it has “created the iPhone of vehicles.” It’s correct undeniable straightforward, it “correct works,” and it’s a ways mainly straightforward to determine practically continually on the first are attempting or wager.

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