Over the weekend, Tesla CEO Elon Musk clarified the automaker’s use of the word ‘Beta’ in reference to the Autopilot system after Germany’s Federal Office for Motor Vehicles (KBA) said that it wouldn’t approve a feature on German roads if it is described as ‘Beta’. The agency said that the ‘beta-phase’ could mean ‘an incomplete status of the software’.
Elon Musk claimed that the word “beta” is not used in the “standard sense” of the word, but to make sure drivers “don’t get comfortable” with the system.
In a Twitter conversation on Sunday, the CEO explained that the company’s fleet would need at least 1 billion miles of data to stop calling the Autopilot ‘beta’.
He added that the automaker will probably hit the mark in about “six months” and that the system will “include hundreds of refinements to handle rare corner cases”. The next improvements will come in the form of Tesla’s v8.0 software update.
He emphasized again that the use of the word beta is to highlight that the system is not perfect and that Tesla drivers don’t have to use it:
Thanks. Point of calling it "beta" was to emphasize to those who chose to use it that it wasn't perfect.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2016
It looks like Elon is talking 1 billion miles of active Autopilot use and not only data gathering through the system’s hardware or the system running in “ghost mode” since it should already be close to 1 billion miles of data by now, but only around 150 million miles of active Autopilot use.
In a presentation back in May, Tesla’s Director of Autopilot Programs, Sterling Anderson, shared new details about the amount of data the automaker has so far collected through its Autopilot program. He confirmed that the company has collected 780 million miles worth of Autopilot data and 100 million miles of active Autopilot use. He also said that the company is adding a million more miles every 10 hours – thanks to a fleet of 70,000+ Teslas equipped with Autopilot hardware. The rate will accelerate greatly later this year as Tesla plans to deliver around 50,000 cars in the next 6 months.
Elon added that before making it to customers, the system was “extensively tested in the lab” and in Tesla’s own fleet – not to mention that it was also tested by Tesla owners in the Early Acces Program before making it to a wide release. So two steps before making it to customers and three steps before making it to a wide release to all customers.
The CEO is setting the minimum data requirement at a sample size of a billion miles, but he is talking about Tesla’s current version of the Autopilot as a semi-autonomous driver assist system, but he also recently talked about the amount of data the company and the industry will need to provide to regulators for fully autonomous system. He said that “they will want to see billions of miles of data to show that it is statistically true that there is a substantial improvement in safety if a vehicle is autonomous versus non-autonomous.”