Tesla's director of Autopilot Programs revealed that the automaker has collected data from some 100 million miles from Model S and Model X driving with the system active. Speaking at MIT's EM Tech Digital conference, Sterling Anderson also said that since the October 2015 launch of Autopilot the system has collected another 780 million miles worth of data even when Autopilot's not engaged.
Sterling detailed the development process for Autopilot, noting that they had collected data from some 70,000 cars driving millions of miles to determine if the self-driving system would in fact be safer. Satisfied that it would be, Tesla then made Autopilot available to the public — and their data has shown that their cars are considerably safer than when driven under total human control.
Autopilot, available on the Model S and Model X for a $3,000 upgrade charge, and to be available for the Tesla Model 3, relies on a combination of ultrasonic sensors, long-range radar, and a forward-looking camera to drive the car. It watches surrounding traffic and lane markings to guide the car through traffic, and is capable of following lanes, following a car in front of it, and even changing lanes when directed by the driver. It is not, however, full autonomy — it cannot drive from point A to point B and Tesla is adamant that drivers should stay alert and attentive even when their Tesla is operating under Autopilot. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has estimated that full autonomy should be expected around the end of 2017 or early 2018.