Seriously, if you're contemplating getting a Tesla, you really should opt for the Autopilot.
When I first ordered mine (not being one of those rich owners), I didn't have the luxury of opting for enabling the autopilot convenience features. Having recently somewhat replenished the retirement savings which I pilfered (spare me the lecture, I did it responsibly and in a well-planned manner), I got wifely permission to swing for enabling it.
The process was pretty simple. A ranger came out, hooked up a laptop to a cable exposed by removing the under-screen cubby, and used a special Tesla software to push the required firmware update to the car. After that (and waiting 2 hours for the update to finish installing), we went out to test it and for him to show me the basics.
TL;DR... there's definitely a learning curve... and a period of time to gain trust in it. But once it's gained your trust, you won't know what you've done without it.
We took a 200+ mile road trip over the weekend; and believe me, it made the trip SO much easier. I suppose you really don't really realize how much brain power is used to drive (even on a subconscious level), until the car manages much of driving's tasks for you. You arrive at your destination not as fatigued. You find yourself paying more attention to the idiots around you, watching out for troublesome deer, noticing debris in the road, etc. I think it can improve defensive driving skills, honestly (you hear that, State Farm? hint, hint, nudge, wink).
A few other thoughts about the experience:
- It keeps the car dead-center in the lane; so if you're a line-rider, you may not like it.
- But, it seems to notice and react to traffic around you. If you're beside a truck or car, it seems to shy away from that vehicle a bit - which, if true, is quite nice.
- If one lane marking disappears (like for a ramp or widening of the roadway with another lane), it seems to veer a tiny bit outward. Nothing major, but noticeable.
- If you use it in stoplight traffic, it waits until it's quite late before hitting the brakes. I tend to start coasting (regeneration) when a see stopped traffic far ahead (to avoid using brakes at all); however autopilot tends to wait until the last minute to brake, which is a bit unnerving and wasteful to the regeneration and brakes. I'd love to see the radar be used to its full capabilities here, and the system be a bit more proactive.
I'll probably write up more as I get used to it, but that's my initial impressions so far.