Last month, we reported on Tesla’s Director of Autopilot Programs, Sterling Anderson, sharing new details about the amount of data the automaker has so far collected through its Autopilot program. He confirmed that the company has collected 780 million miles worth of Autopilot data and that it is adding a million more miles every 10 hours – thanks to a fleet of 70,000+ Teslas equipped with Autopilot hardware.
At the time, we highlighted the importance of data, and potentially sharing data, in achieving a successful fully autonomous system approved by regulator. Now Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed that the automaker offered to share all its Autopilot data with the US Department of Transport (DoT) and that the company would even consider sharing data with other automakers.
The matter of sharing data with the DoT has more to do with accelerating the adoption of regulations for autonomous driving than accelerating the advent of the technology itself – like it would with other automakers – but both paths have very interesting implications.
Yesterday, we reported on Elon Musk announcing that there will be an event “maybe around the end of the year’ during which he will release the details of Tesla’s plan to introduce the next generation Autopilot. While it’s unconfirmed, the timeline of the rollout appears to be in-line with Musk’s prediction that the technology will be ready by the end of 2017.
The company is expected to first introduce a new sensor suite that would support fully autonomous driving and later release the software enabling the autonomous features. The release of the software would also be dependent on regulatory approval for a commercially available level 4 autonomous driving system.
A level 4 system would allow anyone to sit in a vehicle, tell the system where you want to go, and the vehicle would drive itself to the location without any more input from you. Musk explained how he sees the timeframe to such a system:
“I think we are basically less than 2 years away from complete autonomy – safer than a human. However, regulators will take I think at least another year, which will of course depend on what part of the world you are in because they will want to see billions of miles of data to show that it is statistically true that there is a substantial improvement in safety if a vehicle is autonomous versus non-autonomous.”
Therefore, a good sign that autonomous driving is coming would be to see regulators having access to autonomous driving data, and while it’s still an early version of the concept (and not quite billions of miles), Musk said that the automaker already offered to share its Autopilot data, now with over 780 million miles of data, with the US Department of Transport.
We asked a Tesla spokesperson if the DoT has collected the data and while the spokesperson confirmed that the automaker offered it, she didn’t respond when asked if the regulators have taken up Tesla on the offer.
Tesla’s CEO added that for the regulators to approve an autonomous driving system, it would have to prove to be at least two times safer than a human or maybe even 5 to 10 times. Earlier this year, he said that based on early data from the Autopilot program, the system lowers the probability of having an accident by 50%.