The company's boss thinks the system could reach that distance in about six months.
Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system is under intense scrutiny after a fatal accident by a driver using the tech, and in a recent series of tweets company boss Elon Musk explains exactly what he means by saying the software is still in the beta stage. In his view, the company needs at least a billion miles of data before it can actually leave the testing phase.
Musk was responding a Reuters report that Germany’s Federal Office for Motor Vehicles would not have approved the use of beta software in Tesla’s vehicles. In a later story, the agency clarified that it was not investigating the automaker but simply “clarifying technical issues.”
The boss then answered questions on Twitter to offer even more clarification. According to Musk, the word “beta” communicated to drivers that Autopilot wasn’t perfect and to remain alert. “It is not beta software in the standard sense," he tweeted.
He also said that Tesla extensively tested Autopilot on its fleet, but real-world use was also instrumental to the project. “With less than 1B miles, there simply isn't enough data. 1B is a necessary but not necessarily sufficient condition,” Musk tweeted. He estimated the company would reach that threshold in around six months. Sometime after that an Autopilot upgrade would “include hundreds of refinements to handle rare corner cases.”
According to Electrek, Musk’s billion miles likely refers to active use of the system, rather than of total vehicle distance. The company recently admitted that it collects reams of information from drivers and even tests inert software on customers’ cars.
The National Highway Traffic Safety administration is currently investigating two Tesla crashes, including the fatal accident. The Securities and Exchange Commission also has an inquiry to check the legality of the company’s stock sale before the public knew about the incident. There was also recently a third wreck by a driver allegedly using the system.