Automakers are currently in a race to bring self-driving vehicles to market and data is expected to be a big part of what will eventually enable a fully self-driving system that is safer than humans.
While many companies developing the technology are limited to test fleets to collect data, Tesla has the advantage of having a large fleet of vehicles equipped with many sensors in the hands of customers traveling around the world every day.
Now, their fleet is getting much bigger with the Model 3 and Tesla started opening the floodgates of data gathering by adding the vehicle to its Autopilot data collection program.
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At this point, Tesla has hundreds of thousands of vehicles with Autopilot sensors on the road.
A month later, Tesla really started picking up the data gathering effort and owners started to see their cars uploading gigabytes worth of data to the automaker.
And now a year later, it’s time for the Model 3 to feed the data gathering effort. Tesla warned owners after the latest update that they are also now using the Autopilot cameras of the Model 3 – though owners can opt out of the program.
Here’s Tesla’s request for data collection in the Model 3:
We are working hard to improve autonomous safety features and make self-driving a reality for you as soon as possible.
In order to do so, we need to collect short video clips using the car’s external cameras to learn how to recognize things like lane lines, street signs, and traffic light positions. The more fleet learning of road conditions we are able to do, the better your Tesla’s self-driving ability will become.
We want to be super clear that these short video clips are not linked to your vehicle identification number. In order to protect your privacy, we have ensured that there is no way to search our system for clips that are associated with a specific car.
Do you agree to allow us to collect these clips? You can change your mind later at any time.
In order for these features to work, Tesla measures the road segment data of all participating vehicles but in a way that does not identify you or your car, and may share that with partners that contribute similar data to help us provide the service. At no point is any personally identifiable information collected or shared during this process.
Do you agree to allow us to collect this data? You can change your mind later at any time.
Interestingly, we have an idea of the kind of data that Tesla is gathering from its vehicles after an owner managed to access the Autopilot debug mode last year.
It sporadically and seemingly at random (though that’s not clear) sends out snapshots from 7 of the 8 cameras (10 pictures at 1fps from each camera) and 10 seconds of images at 30fps from the main and narrow front-facing cameras – coupled with a radar snapshot.