You may not have had any idea, but Tesla had been looking at your car closely this whole time. That is how it was able to figure out that its entire fleet of sold vehicles have already logged as much as 100 million miles while driving themselves.
The secret is in the internet connection. Back in 2012, Tesla had rolled out its Model S with an internet connection that is always turned on. Now, a Tesla executive admitted that it was as much as for the benefit of their savvy customers as it was for Tesla itself.
According to a report from the MIT Technology Review, this cellular connection feature allowed Tesla to gather data from various sensors they have installed inside the vehicles before they rolled out of the production line.
As Tesla’s director of the Autopilot program Sterling Anderson explained during MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco, being able to do so “allowed us in 18 months to go from very behind the curve to what is today one of the more advanced autonomous or semi-autonomous driving features.”
To support continuous research, Tesla carefully installed 12 ultrasonic sensors meant to help engineers gather data from its cars as customers began using them. Anderson explained that every 10 hours, the company receives another million miles worth of pertinent data.
Moreover, Anderson said, “We will often install an ‘inert’ feature on all our vehicles worldwide. That allows us to watch over tens of millions of miles how a feature performs.”
To this day, Tesla cars have already logged as much as 100 million miles on autopilot. It must be said that the key milestone would not have been discovered if it weren’t for Tesla’s unique way of covert testing. The question remains, though, of whether the market actually likes the idea of a car driving itself.
According to a report from 24/7 Wall St., a new study done by the University of Michigan Sustainable Worldwide Transportation found that when it comes to driving, a majority of drivers still prefer to be the one steering the wheel rather than the car itself. In fact, a majority of respondents would still prefer vehicles with no autopilot capabilities.
As for Tesla, Anderson is quick to point out that autopilot does not mean autonomous. He cautioned, “We ask drivers to keep their hands on [the wheel] and be prepared to take over.”