Today the company released new data related to its Autopilot program and is now reporting “~100 million miles” driven with Autopilot active. The figure includes Autosteer and/or Traffic -Aware Cruise Control – the Autopilot’s main convenience features.

Director of Autopilot Programs, Sterling Anderson, made the announcement during the MIT’s Em Tech Digital conference earlier today.

Anderson is a veteran MIT researcher and he was in charge of the Model X program at Tesla before joining the Autopilot team. He released some very interesting nuggets of information today on how Tesla handles this very sensitive semi autonomous driving system, which ultimately will become a fully autonomous system.

While Tesla owners have driven around 100 million miles on Autopilot, Anderson reveals that the fleet Autopilot hardware-equipped cars has collectively driven 780 million miles.

The difference of miles driven with Autopilot on and off is crucial to Tesla’s development process:tesla autopilot development process

Anderson explains:

“We first install (the Autopilot system) in a logging fashion across 70,000 vehicles. We watch over 10’s of millions of miles with the new (Autopilot) features not turned on. We only turn it on when we know it is empirically safer.”

Tesla basically turned its fleet of vehicles into an incredible data gathering asset for the Autopilot program before enabling the software.

Based on the same data with the Autopilot off versus on, Anderson also released an interesting real-world example of the system’s efficiency:Autopilot position in lane

Tesla is now gathering more data from autonomous miles driven in a day than Google’s program has logged since its inception in 2009. As we discussed last time the subject came up,  Google’s miles are city miles, while the Autopilot is for highway driving which gives a distinct advantage to Tesla in term of racking up data based on miles driven.

But the data Tesla is gathering while the Autopilot is not turned on is also extremely valuable and covers a wider range of road types. While Google doesn’t have access to a large fleet to collect similar data like Tesla, the Mountain View company adds “simulated-miles” with over 3 million a day, without leaving the lab. It also worth considering that Google has a fleet of over a billion Android phones circling the globe every day collecting data – though the phones are not equipped with as many sensors as the vehicles.

Data is king in the race to create autonomous driving systems, which raises the question: Should companies pool their data for the good of the cause?

Featured images: all pictures via Steve Jurvetson, partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Tesla board member (via Twitter and Facebook).

Update: The article was updated to better represent the data released by Tesla in regards to miles driven with the Autopilot.

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