Vehicle autonomy is developing on a parallel course with electrification. Tesla is at the forefront of this trend with its Autopilot features, keeping it a nose ahead of any potential competition from other automakers.
Every day, more Autopilot-driven miles are added to the body of data that the company is amassing. Tesla said in April that Model S and X owners have driven over 47 million miles on Autopilot since it became available last October.
As Musk explained during Tesla’s Q1 2016 earnings call, “Data is everything,” not only for improving the Autopilot technology, but also to convince regulators, and the public, that autonomous features make automobiles safer.
“Regulators are going to want to see a very large amount of data – maybe billions of miles – showing that the car is unequivocally safer in autonomous mode…in a wide range of circumstances, in countries all around the world,” said Musk.
While Musk believes autonomous technology can reduce the death toll from auto accidents, he doesn’t see himself ever arguing that humans should be required to yield the wheel to machines. “Freedom is important. If people want to drive, they should be allowed to drive, but the autonomous safety system should be there.”