In a recent meeting with Norway’s Minister of Transport, Tesla CEO Elon Musk shared early data from the Tesla Autopilot system and claimed that “The probability of having an accident is 50% lower if you have Autopilot on. Even with our first version. So we can see basically what’s the average number of kilometers to an accident – accident defined by airbag deployment. Even with this early version, it’s almost twice as good as a person.”
The data was extracted from 47 million miles on the autonomous Autopilot mode in Tesla vehicles. While the data is in no way a statistical fact (small testing time and factors based on seasonal driving conditions haven’t been examined), it is a very good start.
Tesla has been able to utilize the benefits of an electric vehicle to create their Autopilot system with far less sensors and data points than a comparable gasoline powered semi-autonomous vehicles. In layman’s terms, an electric car has electric steering, electric pedals, and a far more simple control unit. By sending particular voltages to the steering, the car can steer itself. By sending a separate voltage signal to the pedals, they can move as if they were being pressed and control power to the wheels. Tesla was able to create a virtual driver without dealing with controlling an internal combustion engine (which would add fuel, air, spark, and timing into the equation).
Musk has confirmed that the second version of Autopilot will be fully autonomous. Even at its current state, if the system can continue to reduce accidents where the airbags deploy, Autopilot is so much more than a system that drives the boring parts for you.