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How does autopilot work when car is dirty?

Click bait I know.

BUT has anyone here noticed a problem with autopilot if their cars got a little two dirty. maybe if in a an area that is snowing right now did you see problems when your car was covered? etc I know it uses cameras and sensors so what if they are clogged or covered by dirt / snow etc?

obv you would need to clean your car better but winter that may be a bit less fun.


I play a nice person on twitter.
Feb 6, 2011
Columbia River Gorge
Click bait I know.

BUT has anyone here noticed a problem with autopilot if their cars got a little two dirty. maybe if in a an area that is snowing right now did you see problems when your car was covered? etc I know it uses cameras and sensors so what if they are clogged or covered by dirt / snow etc?

Then it doesn't work & you cannot run in autopilot mode. So if you have an accident, it's because of your driving.

And click-bait titles are uncool.

Edit: Thanks, mods, for fixing the title!
Last edited:


Active Member
Nov 12, 2006
Click bait I know.

You should be an online auto journalist, or write for ShortingTesla/SeekingAlpha :biggrin:

I suspect that if the sensors are blocked you just get a message like: "Autopilot is not available at this time"

Dull but safe.

But I guess that won't stop some YouTubers posting "Watch me hoover the inside of my moving Tesla while the Autopilot glitches"


Active Member
Aug 19, 2015
Carlsbad, CA
There are all sort of warnings and repeated limitations in the Tesla manual about dirty and damaged sensors in each section describing every capability, including poor visibility such as heavy rain, snow, fog possibly causing the driver assistance functions from operating properly.

This is the case with autopilot-specific capabilities, as well as more basic capabilities like parking (ultrasonic) sensors that may not operate properly if they are covered in mud, ice, snow, or whatever. I've read examples in other threads where warnings came up on the IC disabling some automation for a driver for various reasons. I hypothesize this would also happen if MS decides one or more sensors are not operating properly, but I doubt any vehicle has a method to be 100% accurate in that regard since there isn't complete redundancy in sensor coverage. I still consider it the driver's responsibility to check their vehicle and make some logical decisions for themselves -- no different than pilots do with visual inspection before takeoff of their aircraft that is even more complex and has even more parts hidden from view than a MS. ...and while I too like "fun", if I were in inclement environments as I have been in the past, I would NEVER allow my vehicle's beta software and early hardware assist capabilities to be in 100% control. I'll trust myself first, save autopilot fun for another day, and let other crazy people take their chances to make YouTube videos of their experience that ruin it for the rest of us.

FWIW: My former BMW, MBZ, and Lexus all had similar warnings about advanced capabilities that may not operate properly if their sensors were damaged or were prevented from doing what they were designed to do because of mud, caked-on ice, etc -- including their parking sensors, side collision warning, lane keeping assist, TACC equivalents, etc functions that I enjoyed. I know for a fact things like Radar Cruise Control did have problems in very heavy rain and sleet conditions that starting impacting the front of my former SUV and another time my roadster, with no indication it was failing either time. Both times, I turned cruise control off and went back to manual control, just as I would in my Tesla.
Why don't you test it? Tape a piece of paper over the camera and see what the car does.

- - - Updated - - -

Similar question: how does AP knows when it's sensor are dirty/malfunctioning? When ones glasses are dirty person knows because things don't look as expected but how does AI figure out what is real?

Probably the same way the computer figures out which parts of the image are road and which parts are sky/curb/dirt/cows. Which is to say, a huge neural network trained from a ton of data and working in ways that even the creators of it don't understand.


Apr 8, 2015
You guys are funny if you think a little dust on the windshield on top of the front element of the camera will cause problems: LensRentals.com - Front Element Scratches

You need a lot of dirt, snow, fog, etc. to mess up the camera's visibility to become unusable.

Seconds, if the radar is obstructed, the car will tell you. I've had TACC turn off when it thought the radar was obstructed.
I'm pretty sure autopilot won't work in bad weather in the same way that you can't use TACC in bad weather and/or dirty (mud/snow) covered.

My TACC works fine even in moderate to heavy rain. Only the strongest of rainshowers (under thunderstorms for instance) does it disable.

I used Autosteer yesterday in moderate rain and it was fine. You do notice that the recognition of the lines as portrayed on the console don't go out as far as on a clear day, but it was still holding the lane fine.

Disclaimer: I was extra cautious using Autosteer in rain :).
I pushed the "Clean Mode" button, and this popped out of my frunk and went to work on the AP sensors:

I thought it was neat. Does yours not do that?


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