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Tesla Full Self Driving subscription launches — and it costs $199 a month

Tesla Model 3
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you fancy getting your hands on a Tesla with the ‘Full Self Driving’ add-on, but don’t have $10,000 to spend all in one go, you’re in luck. Because Tesla is offering it as a $199 monthly subscription.

Yes, everything is a subscription nowadays, though in this case it’s not such a bad deal. After all, $10,000 is a heck of a lot of cash to drop all at once.

Elon Musk has been promising a FSD subscription service for several years now, but so far it was only ever available as a one-off purchase. A purchase that has been steadily increasing in price.

But now the FSD subscription is here, available on eligible vehicles within the United States. It’s set to cost $199 a month for Tesla owners who only have Basic Autopilot, or $99 a month for anyone who bought the now-discontinued Enhanced Autopilot package.

Tesla hasn’t clarified what will happen to the existing $10,000 FSD add-on, but at the time of writing it was still available to purchase with all four Tesla models. That may change in the future, however.

As much as it can be annoying for companies to pivot everything to a subscription, this doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. For starters, dropping $10,000 on the FSD upgrade is a big ask, especially on the cheaper Tesla cars like the Model 3 and Model Y. The subscription is also non-committal, so you can cancel it at any time without penalty.

tesla fsd

(Image credit: Tesla)

$199 is a lot to try out a fancy new feature, but it sure beats dropping $10,000 for something you might not even like using. Plus at $199 a month, it’ll be over four years before you’re paying more than you would have done if you paid for FSD up front. And who knows what Autopilot will be capable of by then.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that Tesla’s ‘Full Self Driving’ is not complete autonomy. There still needs to be an attentive driver present, ready to take over in case something goes wrong. After all, the company has gone on record to say that the car could “do the wrong thing at the worst time”.

The only major issue here is that you will need to have the Full-Self Driving Computer 3.0 to take advantage of this subscription. Anyone who does not, because they bought a Tesla before 2019, will have to pay $1,500 for a hardware upgrade.

tesla fsd hardware upgrade

(Image credit: Tesla)

That has annoyed some people, since Tesla has previously said those cars had all the necessary self-driving hardware and wouldn’t need any upgrades. In fact, the blog post announcing that, from way back in 2016, is still available for posterity.

That said, the FSD computer 2 and 2.5 weren’t good enough for what Tesla wanted, so it upgraded that computer for all models produced from 2019. Owners of existing cars, and the FSD add-on, were offered an upgrade at no extra cost. Because Tesla had promised that hardware would be included, whether you bought the FSD software upgrade or not.

Which is very uncool of Tesla. We’ll have to see how that plays out, because the current consensus on Tesla forums is pretty negative

Tesla 'Full Self-Driving' explained

Despite what the name suggests, Telsa's Full Self Driving feature is not actually complete autonomy. As I mentioned before, it still needs an attentive driver behind the wheel ready to take over if something goes wrong.

But, true autonomy or not, there is still a lot of very useful features bundled into Basic Autopilot and the FSD upgrade.

Basic Autopilot is essentially a smarter version of cruise control, with the Tesla able to accelerate and brake automatically depending on road conditions. And, provided there are clear lane markings, there are some instances where the car will be able to steer itself, and stay within that lane. Autopilot also comes with an emergency brake, collision warnings, and blind spot monitors.

'Full Self Driving' takes it a step further, with more advanced Autopilot features. With the FSD upgrade, a Tesla will be able to automatically change lanes by itself, can be summoned from a parking space, and will be able to automatically parallel and perpendicular park with a single tap of the center console.

The real selling point of FSD Autopilot is that it gives the car the ability to navigate by itself on highways — taking you from the on-ramp to the right off-ramp with minimal driver intervention. You still need to be alert and aware, but by most definitions the car is driving itself. That feature is also promised to come o city streets before the end of the year.

Tesla owners in the United States can check and see whether the FSD subscription is available by checking their Tesla app. If you need the hardware upgrade, the app will also make this abundantly clear as well. So you may well be able to go out and try out the car’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ features as soon as today.

Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.