Tesla Model 3 vs Honda Insight vs ???
May 23, 2020 9:33 PM   Subscribe

I need to buy a new car. Because I drive a lot, I want a safe vehicle that will do lots of the “driving” for me (lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, etc). Obviously Tesla has Autopilot, and Honda has Honda Sensing. How do they compare? And am I missing any other good tech suites?

Clearly there is a big price difference between the two, but I can afford the Tesla. Clearly there’s also a big powertrain difference. I am leaning towards the Tesla because I am such a believer in electric vehicles, but my current car is a Honda and I really like Honda for their cheap efficiency.

Please spare me your thoughts on Elon Musk, for the love of dog.
posted by chuntered inelegantly from a sedentary position to Technology (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
We have a 2019 Honda Passport, which has adaptive cruise control, stay-in-lane, drift alert, and whatever else they could throw in there. (It’s my wife’s car so I don’t drive it as often, and thus, am probably forgetting some detail). We were up in Vermont shortly after buyong it, and I tried an experiment - could I get back into town with a minimum of actual driving? Mostly 2 or 4 lane undivided road, hills and curves but nothing crazy. The answer was: for the most part, yes. It did insist that I grab the wheel a few times, more to confirm that I was there than for maneuvers. But it worked. We have noticed that it wants us to brake for oncoming traffic on a curve a lot - like it assume’s we’re going to decide to go straight into the other lane - but other than that, it works okay. I would not use it as a “set it and forget it” setup - partly because it doesn’t feel like it’s smart enough, and partly because I don’t want to give that much control away.
posted by neilbert at 9:51 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


I have Tesla Model 3 with Auto Pilot, not the more expensive Full Self Driving (per Tesla's namin convention). We also have a 2018 Volvo XC90 with some sort of auto steer. Tesla's system is night and day ahead of the Volvo; I haven't driven the Honda in question, but I do read about this stuff a lot and would think I'd at least heard of it if it was up to par. Tesla also continuously updates the software and it gets noticeably better and adds new functionality. I do believe that Tesla with the Auto Pilot must be the safest car on the road, maybe with the exception of the same car with Full Self Driving.
posted by zeikka at 11:04 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Tesla Model 3 driver here. To get some kind of idea of what autopilot is like, I recommend some of the Youtubers who have made it their business to illustrate it. Here, for example, is UK based Tesla Driver taking his car (with full self driving) through Dundee in Scotland, here is CF Driver showing a 45 minute journey on full self drive without any intervention - and here is Dirty Tesla talking about the differences between Autopilot and full self driving. The videos can help you judge what the system is capable of under normal end edge conditions.

For me, the automated driving feature that I most appreciate is the ability for the car to take the strain in slow traffic: the kind of stop start operations that we get on both city streets and motorways/freeways. Tesla is using ridiculously powerful tools to try to do this well: a raft of cameras, a radar and ultrasonic sensors - a custom built computer that can process trillions of operations per second on data from these sensors - and trip information taken from billions of miles travelled. I have no idea whether Musk will be able to pull of his stretch-goal of turning his cars into driverless robo-taxis - but I feel that I am a beneficiary of his efforts in this direction. I can't speak of Honda, or anybody else with similar systems - but I suspect they are not spending nearly so much effort on making and improving these features as Tesla is. The quiet interior environment of the car - and a good sound system, also make time spent inside it seem pleasant: to me, they are as important as auto-pilot in making a trip stress free. Finally: the company releases a steady stream of free software updates to improve its system (something which is mind boggling tricky to do for a car, given the requirements for safety on millions of different vehicles). Seeing how car behaves - and improves - is an interesting activity to relieve long journeys.
posted by rongorongo at 12:27 AM on May 24 [4 favorites]


Basically every car manufacturer has the equivalent tech suite available in their 2020 models in at least certain trim levels. Consumer Reports has a nice breakdown, as well as articles that talk about individual features and which cars have implementations of those features that their drivers are happy with. Honda does not get particularly good marks in that analysis.
posted by phoenixy at 3:29 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


We have the Model 3. I haven’t driven one of the newer Hondas, but the Tesla features are amazing. I do not enjoy driving, but the Tesla does so much of the driving on highways and interstates that the experience is much easier and less stressful for me. We actually took it on a cross-country road trip last year and had a blast.

Like zeikka, I feel the Tesla with the AP or FSD features engaged is far safer than any human-operated car right now.
posted by shb at 3:43 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


I really like Subaru's Eyesight system. They do make a plug-in hybrid Crosstrek. Obviously not "full self-driving" but very affordable and great at what it does.
posted by postel's law at 5:54 AM on May 24 [2 favorites]


Came to mention Subaru; my 2020 Outback is my first experience with any kind of lane keeping or adaptive CC. I really like it though I haven’t taken long interstate trips which I’m sure is where it would shine. But taking a few miles on I-5 I really like it for keeping pace, keeping proper car-length distancing, and just not worrying about my speed. Can’t wait to use it in traffic.

I do get false alarms (really!) for taking my eyes off the road though. Also beeps when it loses sight of lane striping. Mildly annoying but I think there are settings to at least lower the volume.
posted by supercres at 8:32 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


I would caution you not to treat Tesla Autopilot or any driver assist features like an auto-driving car. Tesla pretends in their marketing that their system is autonomous, but the fine print reveals that they take no responsibility for malfunctions. I drove a Tesla for a short time and was shocked to see a bug where the steering wheel controlled the cursor on the infotainment system, which doesn't give me a lot of trust in their technology.

People above are correct that almost every large manufacturer has advanced driving assist features now. However, these features have a hidden danger, in that they make driving too boring. People can drive for hours, but they have a real hard time "not driving, but maintaining vigilance, ready to take over the vehicle in a split second", which is what automakers tell you that you're supposed to do after engaging the more advanced ones. Use them to make your driving easier and safer, but don't use them to not drive.
posted by demiurge at 8:51 AM on May 24


...feature that I most appreciate is the ability for the car to take the strain in slow traffic: the kind of stop start operations that we get on both city streets and motorways/freeways.

I would caution you not to treat Tesla Autopilot or any driver assist features like an auto-driving car. Tesla pretends in their marketing that their system is autonomous, but the fine print reveals that they take no responsibility for malfunctions.

While the latter quote is true, it is also good to understand that especially in the stop and go traffic and freeway driving Tesla does already perform way better than human drivers, because the computers don't get bored and distracted. Additionally, the Tesla systems assisted me is much calmer and more predictable driver than me without the Auto Pilot. Lot less trying to beat the traffic, continuous lane changes, etc. Tesla vs. other car OEMs debate is often framed as electric vs. combustion engine drive train, I think that for most users the biggest difference is in the software capabilities of car platform. The difference is more akin to internet vs. telephony.
posted by zeikka at 9:41 AM on May 24


especially in the stop and go traffic and freeway driving Tesla does already perform way better than human drivers
Interesting. Do you have a reference for that?
posted by demiurge at 10:09 AM on May 24


Autopilot is nearly 9 times safer than the average driver. Statistically.

That being said, I a) don't mean to threadsit, but b) would prefer not to hear arguments about why partial autonomy is scary. On one side it's armchair psychology, on the other it's actual statistics.

Sorry if I sound grumpy! But I know that Tesla is one of those Topics That Metafilter Doesn't Do Well... at least on the blue. On the green we get to be a bit more picky about how these threads go, so please, no arguing about partial autonomy. In my opinion it is safe, and my question is about who is doing a decent job of it.

Thank you everyone for your responses!
posted by chuntered inelegantly from a sedentary position at 11:27 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


I have a Canadian bought 2020 civic with all the sensing features available in that model. I use the adaptive cruise and slow speed follow on the highway and find it “good” but it has a lot of peculiarities. If you turn it on once traffic has bogged down, you'll have to set the upper speed limit to highway speeds (the default is limited to 40kmh). If you want to increase the following distance, you need to push a button to shorten the distance a few times before you “come around the horn” the the longer setting. It's a pretty stupid and cheap setup, since there's an unassigned button across from it on the same rocker button that could've been programmed to lengthen the distance. It'll sometimes charge forward if the car in front changes lanes, so I would never trust it on a city street. It doesn’t have any awareness of the cars to the sides, so it'll happily follow a lead car and keep you in a truck's blind spot. The lane keep requires a fair bit of driver feedback beyond just keeping your hands on the wheel. I found that I had to give it conscious resistance every 30 seconds or so. It works on gentle curves but not with 100% reliability and won’t turn on if it's dark and rainy. Instead of blind spot radar, it only has a camera for your right hand blind spot. I don't find it very useful because there's a significant delay from the moment you signal, when the infotainment screen goes blank for the better part of a second, and finally the camera view comes on. It feel safer to turning my head to look.

So, it's useful in certain circumstances but sometimes can be a bit of a driver distraction in and of itself outside of pretty narrow set of conditions. I'm glad it was included but it's nowhere near what you're probably hoping for.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:18 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


I have a 2018 Honda Accord Hybrid. It will steer itself on the highway at highway speeds. It is pretty freaky the first time that you experience it. With that said, take your hands off the steering wheel for more than ~10 seconds and it will start yelling at you...repeatively. I have not found out what happens if you ignore that warning for a long time.

Adaptive cruise control does work and it works well enough to gently drop the speed to 0. With that said, i am rarely in such a traffic situation where I use that option often.

The lane departure warning stuff is very good and is very useful. It will get confused a bit in weird situations that have weird paint schemes.

The warnings about changing lanes while objects are near you is also generally very good. It can get confused in double turning lanes.

The collision avoidance stuff is ok...In the 2 years I have had the car, I've had it kick in 3 times...once when it was totally appropriate, the other two were not i.e. I was changing lanes to avoid the slowing/stopped cars ahead of me and it decided to break. It let up as soon as I got into the next lane.

So in conclusion, the Honda tech is good but it 100% requires an active driver that is fully participating in the driving experience. You cannot tune out.

Also, my last car was a 1998 and I park outside. So it was a little surprising to find out that ice and snow will disable some of the sensors. Also in one really, really, really cold stretch, the hybrid drivetrain told me that it had disabled the batteries until after the car had significantly warmed up (this was only once and it was after it was negative F for several days).
posted by mmascolino at 12:40 PM on May 24


Autopilot is nearly 9 times safer than the average driver. Statistically.
I'm sorry, but your link says that this information is from Tesla, which invites a critical look, and statistically questionable. They are comparing accidents in all roads in all cars from NHTSA vs accidents they record while using Autopilot. They should compare highway driving in both cases, since Autopilot is going to be used primarily during highway driving. Not to mention that the drivers of Tesla vehicles are going to be a much different demographic than "all drivers".

If you're sure it's safe due to other sources, that's fine. But I don't want to you to be mislead by the article you linked to.
posted by demiurge at 1:13 PM on May 24 [5 favorites]


No experience with Hondas, but I've driven a lot of Teslas. The 3 is the "affordable" model, but it doesn't feel cheap. It's a delight to drive. If driving experience is important to you, that's a big mark in Tesla's favor. I don't actually recommend using any kind of autopilot, but the Tesla one is good for a heavy commute (think an hour of fast-slow-merge highway traffic). OTOH...we might not have that kind of traffic much for the next 2 years. I suspect Tesla's autopilot is better than the Honda version (because, as pointed out above, they've spent a lot of time updating and refining it), but will you notice the difference in lighter, pandemic-era traffic flows?

You might also consider:
- Tesla 3's have a big break-in problem, thanks to the little window at the side of the car. (Smash!) I know people who literally will not drive their 3s to San Francisco if they think they might have to park on the street for a few hours because of this.
- Tesla is the only source of Tesla parts. So if you get into a big wreck...prepare to spend the next two months begging Tesla to buy the parts you need to get your car fixed.
- Uh, now that I think about it, the Tesla wait list can take a while. If you want your car sooner rather than later, you should check with Tesla to see how long of a wait you should expect.
- It's pretty great to have an all-electric vehicle if you've got solar panels. It's also maybe NOT great to have an all-electric vehicle if you do a lot of long road trips, because even superchargers take a lot longer than buying gas.

I wouldn't advise rushing out to sit next to a stranger in a car for 20 minutes, but check if your local Tesla and Honda dealers are offering solo test drives. That seems like a fairly low-risk way for you to compare autopilot features in person.
posted by grandiloquiet at 3:35 PM on May 24


As said above, every car manufacturer offers lane keeping and adaptive cruise control in their 2020 models in at least certain trim levels. Those are the two features that relieve 90% of the workload, and luxury cars (e.g. BMW) started offering it nearly a decade ago, so it's made it downmarket by now. Definitely look at the Consumer Reports articles linked above.

I'm sorry, but your link says that this information is from Tesla, which invites a critical look, and statistically questionable .... If you're sure it's safe due to other sources, that's fine. But I don't want to you to be mislead by the article you linked to.

This. Please ignore Tesla's (and Elon's) own statements, which are often wildly misleading. See also a certain president ...
posted by intermod at 3:41 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Ok, demiurge and intermod, please point me to a scientifically valid study showing Tesla's autopilot to be less safe than current driving. No Jalopnik or CNBC thinkpeices, please. Only actual whitepapers.
posted by chuntered inelegantly from a sedentary position at 11:27 PM on May 24


I don't expect we will settle the question of relative safety of Tesla auto-pilot to everybody's satisfaction: part of the problem is that the metrics are new and poorly agreed on. No doubt the type of driver assistance technologies we are talking about create some problems while they solve others. I don't think anybody knows the balance of that equation and it will depend not just on the car - but also on the roads driven and the individual driver. Pick a side!

What is interesting is Tesla's moves into auto-insurance - would recommend Two Bit daVinci's overview about this. This appears to be the company putting its money where its mouth is with respect to safety: if Telsa's risk modelling indicates that their car is so safe - and if they also know the habits of a particular driver - then they should be able offer insurance for a lower price than their less informed competitors. Moreover: if Tesla claim that their driver assistance technologies are reliable - then they should be ready to stand by these systems on issues of liability. That is because, to sell cars which are fully autonomous - they are going to have to completely indemnify their software in that respect. Tesla is playing for high stakes here: at present its customers are an army of beta-testers who are bearing full liability for their use of "auto-pilot"/"full self-drive". But, to emerge from 'beta' status, they must offer technology of a quality that is leagues ahead of those competitors who see such features merely as a high-end bauble.

So - whether you were to choose a Tesla, a Honda, or any other other car with driver assistance capabilities - then do consider the issue of insurance. If the manufacturer are claiming that their systems are making the car safer - then look for evidence that the car cost less to cover than it would do otherwise. If you are a driver who does not care about Tesla's wider "robo-taxi" goals - then you can be a beneficiary of the extra effort that is being thrown at them.
posted by rongorongo at 12:34 AM on May 25


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