au·​to·​pi·​lot | \ ˈȯ-tō-ˌpī-lət How to pronounce autopilot (audio) \

Definition of autopilot

1 : a device for automatically steering ships, aircraft, and spacecraft also : the automatic control provided by such a device

Examples of autopilot in a Sentence

an airplane equipped with an autopilot The plane was flying on autopilot.

Recent Examples on the Web

So far, Tesla’s autopilot mode has caused several high-profile crashes on public roads, including fatal accidents in Florida and California. Betsy Morais, Longreads, "The Menace and the Promise of Autonomous Vehicles," 13 June 2018 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation last week into a crash involving a Tesla Model S. The vehicle was in autopilot mode when the accident had occurred, the driver reportedly told authorities. Peter Holley,, "Pravda: Elon Musk's solution for punishing journalists," 24 May 2018 Because fatal crashes of autopilot-equipped vehicles are newsworthy. Marina Koren, The Atlantic, "Elon Musk’s Silly War With the Media," 24 May 2018 It is accomplished entirely by hand, with the autopilot off, in all weather conditions, sometimes with both airplanes blacked out. William Langewiesche, The Atlantic, "An Extraordinarily Expensive Way to Fight ISIS," 21 June 2018 Unfortunately for him, there's no autopilot exception to drunk-driving laws. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "It took seven miles to pull over a Tesla with a seemingly asleep driver," 1 Dec. 2018 Maybe the next Attorney General can take the career bureaucracy off autopilot. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Endangered Species Habitat Check," 27 Nov. 2018 Musk’s behavior this summer has compounded the deleterious effect of technical problems in late March and early April, including a deadly autopilot crash, a Model S recall and production target misses. Rani Molla, Recode, "Elon Musk’s summer of bad behavior hasn’t affected Tesla’s sales, but it has hurt its reputation," 10 Oct. 2018 Airships lack the predictable routes and powerful autopilot in much of commercial aviation. Andrew Van Dam,, "The blimp industry is changing, right over our noses," 12 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'autopilot.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of autopilot

1916, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about autopilot

Statistics for autopilot

Last Updated

20 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for autopilot

The first known use of autopilot was in 1916

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for autopilot



English Language Learners Definition of autopilot

: a device that steers a ship, aircraft, or spacecraft in place of a person

More from Merriam-Webster on autopilot

Spanish Central: Translation of autopilot Encyclopedia article about autopilot

Comments on autopilot

What made you want to look up autopilot? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make a payment or contribution

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!