Tesla wants to make self-driving cars a reality by collecting more video data from drivers

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Tesla is asking vehicle owners for permission to collect more video data in an effort to “make self-driving a reality,” according to Electrek. The company is also updating its Autopilot software to lift many of the restrictions on how fast you can drive while using its semi-autonomous, hands-free feature.

Last year, the electric carmaker announced that, moving forward, all its new cars would come equipped with the hardware for “full self-driving capabilities,” including eight cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors that can detect both hard and soft objects. Now, Tesla wants its drivers’ permission to collect more data from the video captured by those cameras for the purposes of improving its self-driving software.

According to Electrek, Tesla sent a message recently asking owners to approve a new video data sharing policy. “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.”

Image: Tesla

Tesla assures drivers in the message that it is not seeking to collect any personal information, like license plate numbers, vehicle identification information, or any details connected with the drivers’ privacy. But Tesla says it may share some of the video data it collects with its partners and suppliers. “At no point is any personally identifiable information collected or shared during the process,” the message concludes.

The move to collect more video data comes after Tesla began pushing a new software update to remove many of the speed limit restrictions for Autosteer, the carmaker’s semi-autonomous, driver-assist feature that is the main feature of Autopilot. Now, drivers can use Autosteer at up to 90 mph on highways, while the speed limit for off-highway use was removed. Up until recently, Autosteer was restricted to 80 mph on highways and 35 mph off-highway.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk touted these iterative improvements in his company’s in-vehicle software as indications of progress toward full autonomous driving. In a recent earnings call, Musk boasted about Tesla’s ability to re-create the vision software previously provided by supplier Mobileye.

“The important thing to appreciate is that the sensor hardware and wiring harness is necessary for full autonomy, which is essentially having the eight cameras, the radar, and ultrasonics, that's in place, so with each passing release, the car's autonomy level will improve,” Musk said in the call. “We had a bit of a dip, obviously because of the unexpectedly rapid transition away from Mobileye, where we would expect it to have the Mobileye chip on the board as we transition. But Mobileye refused to allow that, so then we had to basically recreate all the Mobileye functionality in about six months — which we did.”

Mobileye severed ties with Tesla last September, citing concerns regarding Autopilot. Tesla claimed Mobileye was trying to block the carmaker’s in-house efforts to develop its own image recognition software.

Comments

"we had to basically recreate all the Mobileye functionality in about six months — which we did"

Ouch.

But how much will it coast?

The driverless car industry is starting to gain more attention from both the public and the corporate world. People are becoming more inclined towards the concept of the self-driving mode of transportation. However, there have also been instances whereby accidents have occurred due to the same vehicle not being able to maneuver during emergency situations. Hopefully with more videos of real-time scenarios, counter measures can be programmed for new models.

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