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Tesla Requests Camera Data from Model S and X Owners

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【Summary】In its efforts to accelerate the development of self-driving technology, Tesla has started collecting videos from its huge fleet of vehicles as part of a new software update. Tesla says the data will help continue its advancements of vehicles equipped with the second-generation Autopilot (Autopilot 2.0) hardware introduced last year.

Original Eric Walz    May 10, 2017 11:39 AM PT
Tesla Requests Camera Data from Model S and X Owners

By Eric Walz

In its efforts to accelerate the development of self-driving technology, Tesla has started collecting videos from its huge fleet of vehicles as part of a new software update.

Tesla says it needs the data to help continue its advancements of vehicles equipped with its second-generation Autopilot (Autopilot 2.0) hardware, introduced last year. Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) that is classified as a Level 2 automated system by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

It is designed as a hands-on experience to give drivers more confidence behind the wheel, increase their safety on the road, and make highway driving more enjoyable by reducing the driver's workload, the company released in a press statement. Tesla's Autopilot includes a total of 8 cameras, a forward-facing radar and ultrasonic sensors around the vehicle.

In a statement, Tesla said that to "make self-driving a reality for you as soon as possible...we need to collect short video clips using the car's external cameras to learn how to recognize things like lane lines, street signs, and traffic light positions. The more fleet learning of road conditions we are able to do, the better your Tesla's self-driving ability will become.

The data will help Tesla's machine learning algorithms to improve decision making for autonomous driving. Computer machine learning requires large amounts of data often referred to as "training data". Collecting data in large amounts to improve machine learning and artificial intelligence is needed. Waymo, the Alphabet company that is also working on autonomous driving, collects similar data from its fleet.

Improving Tesla Autopilot

tesla-autopilot.jpg

The main point differentiating Tesla's Autopilot from driving assist systems (ADAS) from other manufacturers is the fact that all cars are connected to each other, and Tesla's machine learning can learn from each driver's individual driving habits.

Back in 2015, Elon Musk referred to each Model S owner as an "expert trainer", which will feed the collective network intelligence of the fleet simply by driving the vehicle with Autopilot engaged. Every week, the system should get better by updating the driving algorithm. Musk said that Tesla owners could add ~1 million miles of new data every day. In a Twitter post on October 7th, 2016, Elon Musk said that the number of cumulative Autopilot-on miles was 222 million.

In October 2016, Tesla announced that all vehicles in production, as well as the long awaited Model 3, will be built with an updated hardware suite, equipping each Tesla with the Autopilot hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver. The data shared by owners will help Tesla refine and improve future versions of its Autopilot software. In March the company released a software update for the Model S and X Autopilot.

Privacy Concerns

Many people have concerns over privacy and what personal data technology companies share. Tesla assured owners that their personal information will remain secure.

"We want to be super clear that these short video clips are not linked to your vehicle identification number. In order to protect your privacy, we have ensured that there is no way to search our system for clips that are associated with a specific car," Tesla said.

Owners are allowed to opt out of this program, however there is a catch. Owners that choose to opt-out of data sharing, will not receive access to future software updates of Tesla's Autopilot system.

Model S and Model X owners already have features including Autosteer, Auto Lane Change, Autopark and Summon, and Tesla's continuous improvement of its Autopilot system will keep Tesla owners at the forefront of technology through over-the-air software updates.

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