When Tesla’s Autopilot software works well, it’s truly a remarkable experience and a prime example of advanced technology fundamentally changing the way we live.
But contrary to the misadventures all over YouTube, it’s not a fully autonomous car, and the beta software is still supposed to have an attentive human driver. That’s not going to change any time soon — even computers need practice, and Elon Musk has now said that Autopilot will remain in beta until a billion Autopiloted miles have been driven.
In just the last two weeks, we’ve heard reports of at least three Tesla crashes where the car’s Autopilot software was engaged. In one particular accident from this past May, the driver of a Model S was tragically killed when his car crashed into a tractor-trailer. Following the accident, Tesla indicated that the car’s software mistook the white tractor-trailer for an overhead highway sign.
In the wake of all of this controversy surrounding Autopilot software, Germany’s office for motor vehicles said that it would never have approved Tesla’s current incarnation of Autopilot software because it’s still in beta. Responding to the issue on Twitter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk intimated that the software’s “Beta” tag isn’t there because the software is half-baked, but rather because there’s not enough statistical data to work with just yet. Additionally, Musk said that the “Beta” label exists so that “drivers don’t get comfortable”
According to Musk, Tesla’s Autopilot software needs at least 1 billion logged miles of real world driving before it can be considered a decidedly non-beta piece of software.
Specifically, Musk said that 1 billion logged miles are needed for a “minimum statistical sample size.”
Incidentally, Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot software have already logged 130 million miles in less than 12 months. And with the number of Tesla vehicles on the road increasing with each passing week, the race to 1 billion logged miles could very well happen sometime within the next 2-3 years.