Rivian Self-Driving vs. Tesla: Which is Better?


Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD) systems have more advanced features, such as navigating on and off highways, while Rivian’s Driver+ system is limited to highway driving. Tesla’s FSD also offers more advanced features like automatic lane changes and the ability to navigate complex intersections.

I’ve been fortunate to use both the Tesla autopilot and the Rivian driver+, and having spent time using autopilot in my M3, I can’t help but note the difference between these two and appreciate the autopilot of the Tesla more.

In terms of performance, the Tesla wins for me. The difference is how both cars react when the highway assist features (Autopilot or HA) are engaged. The HA is good on straight roads but stinks, particularly when approaching and navigating complex driving situations, such as merging onto a highway. It tends to oversteer or jerk the vehicle back to the center of the lane, which can be jarring and uncomfortable.

In contrast, Tesla’s AutoPilot (AP) system is smoother and feels more like a human driver. AP can handle merging and turning more gracefully, creating a better experience for me. 

In this article, we will consider the features and capabilities offered by both Tesla and Rivian and how they contribute to their performance.

Autopilot system

Tesla’s Autopilot system combines two features, namely adaptive cruise control and lane centering. 

  • The adaptive cruise control keeps the vehicle safe from the vehicle in front. 
  • The lane-centering feature ensures the vehicle stays in the middle of the lane.

Rivian’s Driver+ system combines adaptive cruise control called Driver+ and lane centering called Highway Assist to make highway driving easier. Highway Assist can then be activated if the road has lane markings. 

The Tesla’s autopilot and the Rivian Driver+ are activated the same way by pressing the drive stalk once to activate the adaptive cruise control or two times to activate the lane-centering feature. 

The Differences Between the Tesla’s Autopilot and Rivians Driver+

While the two systems may seem similar, there are some important differences:

  • Autopilot can navigate city streets, turn at intersections, and park the vehicle, while Rivian’s Driver+ system is only designed for highway driving. 
  • Autopilot can work virtually anywhere, while the highway assistant works on just the interstate and highways previously mapped for safety. 
  • The Highway Assist disengages frequently as compared to Tesla’s Autopilot.

Overview of The Autopilot Systems

 Tesla’s AutopilotRivian Driver+
FeaturesLane Keeping Traffic-Aware Cruise Control Autosteer Navigate on Autopilot SummonAdaptive Cruise Control Lane Keeping Assist Emergency Braking Highway assist Lane change assist
CapabilitiesTesla’s autopilot is more advanced and can operate in various environments. It mostly provides self-driving capabilities, as it can navigate city streets, turn at intersections, and park the vehicle.Rivian’s Driver+ is primarily designed for highway-assisted driving, and it cannot navigate city streets or turn at intersections.
Level of automationA level 2 automation system on SAE International’s six-level scale of driving automation. Level 2 systems are designed to provide driver assistance but still require the driver to be in control of the vehicle and must be ready to take control of the vehicle if necessary.A level 2 system, but Driver+ is limited to functioning only on highways and will disengage if the road environment changes. 

Hardware and Sensors

Tesla’s autopilot system relies on hardware and sensors to operate. The primary hardware component is the Autopilot system, which processes data from the vehicle’s onboard sensors, including:

  • Eight cameras with 360-degree viewing at up to 820 feet of distance. 
  • Twelve ultrasonic sensors that can detect both hard and soft objects.
  • A new forward-facing radar helps see through rain, fog, and dust.

These cameras and sensors provide information about the vehicle’s surroundings, allowing for steering, acceleration, and braking decision-making. 

The Rivian Driver+ system also relies on a combination of hardware and sensors, but the specifics are a bit different from Tesla’s. Rivian uses; 

  • Five surround-view range radars, 4 corner radars, and 1 forward radar enable more complex maneuvers and monitoring, like lane changes and rear-cross traffic, totaling 5 radars.
  • Twelve ultrasonic sensors provide 360° close-range coverage.
  • 10 exterior cameras help with day-to-day and higher-speed driving.

The cameras provide 360-degree visibility, while the radar and ultrasonic sensors help detect objects around the vehicle. 

The combination of cameras, sensors, and radars used in both autopilot systems provides several advantages for safety and performance. The cameras provide high-resolution images that can be used to identify objects around the vehicle, such as other vehicles, pedestrians, and road signs. The sensors provide a detailed understanding of the vehicle’s surroundings, allowing the system to detect objects close to the vehicle or moving objects. The radar system provides long-range detection, allowing the system to identify and track objects far from the vehicle.

Software and AI Algorithms

The software and algorithms used by Tesla Autopilot are very different.

Tesla uses a combination of machine learning and neural networks, convolutional neural networks, and recurrent neural networks to create its self-driving software. 

  1. Neural networks are AIs inspired by how the human brain works. They can learn and improve over time by analyzing large amounts of data. These AI algorithms work by analyzing large amounts of data, such as images and videos, and identifying patterns that can be used to make decisions. 
  • Convolutional neural networks (CNNs) are particularly effective at analyzing images.
  • While recurrent neural networks (RNNs) are well suited for analyzing sequential data, such as video. 
  1. Reinforcement learning is a machine learning technique well-suited for making decisions in complex, dynamic environments. 

By combining these different AI algorithms, Tesla’s Autopilot system can learn from experience and make real-time decisions.

The Rivian driver+ system uses a proprietary software stack developed by Rivian engineers. This system is also designed to learn and improve over time, but it’s unclear if neural networks are used in Rivian’s software.



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