Nidhi Kalra, senior information scientist for the nonprofit research organization RAND Corporation, has said that any simulation used by Waymo or another Tesla competitor is a simplification of the real world: “Real-world miles still really, really matter. That’s where, literally, the rubber meets the road, and there’s no substitute for it.”
Billions of new sensors translate into yottabytes of real-world road data, all of which is sent directly to the cloud. Crowdsourcing, or “the wisdom of the crowd,” provides Tesla with minute details ranging from their driver’s hand placement to how instruments are operated.
Musk believes it will take about 6 billion real-world miles to gain “worldwide regulatory approval” of true self-driving technology. Tesla is the only company to already have surpassed that mark. Tesla also has greater ability to detect useful trends from the massive quantities of real-world data it has already collected.
Tesla uses radar (not lidar), which hits a commercial price point that is more practical. Radar can see farther, the sensors are less expensive, the cameras are solid-state and reliable to a million miles. These are not the bulky, expensive and unreliable roof-spinning lidar systems like Waymo and other Tesla competitors use.
Musk knows his cars will be fully autonomous, fully thinking by 2019, while his competitors are still struggling with low-competency software and expensive, unreliable lidar systems. All Tesla vehicles since 2012 (S, X, 3) were built with the potential to one day become self-driving. The brand-new Tesla-designed and -built AI chips are simple drop-in upgrades. According to ARK Invest analyst Tasha Keeney, “If Tesla solves self-driving cars without lidar, everyone else is going to be kicking themselves.”