Owners of Tesla are passively participating in a beta test of new self-driving software from the manufacturer.
Speaking at a MIT Technology event in San Francisco on Tuesday, Tesla’s director of Tesla’s Autopilot program Sterling Anderson said his company is pushing out “inert” software updates designed to shadow the drivers on the road today.
“We will often install an ‘inert’ feature on all our vehicles worldwide,” said Anderson. “That allows us to watch over tens of millions of miles how a feature performs.”
“The ability to pull high-resolution data from these vehicles and to update the vehicles over the air is a significant part of what’s 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,” said Anderson.
The hardware in its current models contains 12 ultrasonic sensors positioned around the car. These sensors are used to sense nearby objects. Forward-facing cameras and radar units were intended for bigger things.
From these sensors, Tesla gets another million miles worth of data every 10 hours, Anderson said. Over the last 18 months, it’s downloaded 780 million miles of travel data
With this data, Anderson said showed a chart illustrating how self-driving Teslas using the Autopilot feature hold themselves much more tightly to the center of the lane than humans do when steering the car.
“Autopilot is not an autonomous system and should not be treated as one,” said Anderson. “We ask drivers to keep their hands on [the wheel] and be prepared to take over.”