New Tesla feature will upgrade your ride – but Ford already does it better

A woman navigating the Tesla Model S interior
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Kaspars Grinvalds)

Tesla has launched a new feature that aims to give Model S and Model X drivers a much smoother ride. 

Courtesy of the latest Tesla software update, both models can now scan for potholes and other road defects to generate "rough road map data" and adjust suspension accordingly. 

Rather than adjusting ride height in response to specific pot holes, though, Tesla says that region-wide data gathered by other Tesla cars will inform the areas in which its Model S and Model X electric vehicles (EVs) automatically make these suspension changes.

In other words, Tesla is applying a blanket approach to the cars' suspension settings by plotting a map of high-risk road networks and giving drivers the option of enabling an automatically-adjusted ride. 

Company CEO Elon Musk first hinted at the idea back in 2020, responding in the affirmative to a tweet asking about the potential of a Tesla "micro map":

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Tesla drivers hoping to benefit from the new feature can go to Controls > Suspension > Adaptive Suspension Damping and select the Comfort or Auto setting in their Model S or Model X vehicle – though the latest software update will need to have been installed for the option to appear.

Model 3 and Model Y owners won't be able to take advantage of the new feature, due to the lack of adaptive suspension in these vehicles.

Is Ford doing it better?

Since human drivers are often unable to react in time to potholes and other hard-to-spot road defects, Tesla’s latest feature is a welcome one. This new system is, however, also reliant on data gathered by other Teslas to function effectively. 

If, for instance, your Tesla vehicle is the first to come across a rogue pothole on an otherwise smooth country road, your ride height won't be automatically adjusted until you encounter that pothole a second time (or so Tesla's limited wording on the feature suggests). 

Ford, on the other hand, has implemented a proprietary Pothole Detection System in its latest Ford Focus model that senses when a wheel is falling into a pothole and adjusts suspension in real-time. 

The system monitors the car's suspension, body, steering and braking inputs, adjusting ride height every two milliseconds to mitigate the impact of potholes as soon as they appear.

Granted, Ford's suspension solution is limited to the Focus' optional (and expensive) Continuously Controlled Damping package (where Tesla's equivalent is available to all Model S and Model X owners), but it's worth remembering that Musk’s EV brand isn't exactly a trailblazer in this particular regard.

For more on the latest electric vehicles, check out our breakdown of the all-electric DeLorean DMC, our analysis of the Mercedes EQXX's mind-boggling new range record and our thoughts on Hyundai's upcoming Ioniq 5 SUV.

Axel Metz
Senior Staff Writer

Axel is a London-based Senior Staff Writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest movies as part of the site's daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.