(Source: Tesla Motors)
Autonomous vehicles, better know as self-driving cars, require a lot of detailed data about the roads on which they travel. Almost every automobile manufacturer is developing autonomous vehicles, including BMW, Ford, GM, Mercedes and Tesla. However, unlike other manufacturers, Tesla is leveraging the cars it already has on the road to continuously improve the function of all of its vehicles. Every Tesla sold is equipped with self-driving hardware and software, referred to by the company as Autopilot. The cars come equipped with 12 sensors on the bottom or the car, a front-facing camera and radar. All Teslas are also wirelessly connected to the cloud and continuously upload data to the company. Tesla can collect data from its vehicles, regardless of whether they are operating in Autopilot mode or not. Thus far, Tesla has collected more than 1.3 billion miles of real world data from its cars and adds approximately 1.5 million miles of data each day. By way of comparison, to date the Google self driving program has only acquired 2 million miles of data. This use of Big Data gives Tesla a significant advantage over their competitors. One such example are the road maps these vehicles must use. By incorporating data from their fleet, some Tesla maps are now 100 times more detailed than commercially available GPS maps.
Tesla also uses their huge data advantage to continuously improve the operation of their vehicles. Every car is equipped with machine learning software, a type of artificial intelligence. As stated earlier, the cars are always connected to the cloud and to each other wirelessly. As Elon Musk, the Founder and CEO of Tesla puts it, "The whole Tesla fleet operates as a network. When one car learns something, they all learn it." This continual learning approach, paired with their huge data advantage, puts Tesla in a strong position to pull away from their competitors in the race for self-driving vehicles.