Tesla likes to frequently tout its Autopilot driver-assistance systems, but as it turns out, the company isn’t actually testing fully-autonomous vehicles in the one place where every competitor wants to be: California.
Data recently published by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed that Tesla doesn’t have autonomous vehicles on the state’s streets, despite the likes of Waymo, GM, Apple and many others raking up hundreds of thousands of miles of testing each year.
In a letter sent to the DMV, Tesla’s deputy general counsel and director of regulatory affairs, Al Prescott, revealed that the car manufacturer only tests “autonomous vehicles via simulation, in laboratories, on test tracks, and on public roads in various locations around the world.”
Of course, while Tesla doesn’t conduct tests of fully-autonomous vehicles in California, it does gather vital information from the vehicles it has already delivered to customers around the world. Tesla’s over-the-air technology allows its ‘Shadow-Mode’ to analyze situations around a vehicle at all times even if Autopilot isn’t engaged. Tesla says that this provides it with crucial data that’s used to train its advanced self-driving systems to perform better in the rear world.
Since they entered the semi-autonomous race way after Tesla, rival manufacturers do not possess user data to analyze, so they have fleets of dedicated autonomous prototypes cruising around the streets of California.
Waymo continues to lead the charge for autonomous vehicle testing in California. In 2018, Google subsisidary’s vehicles covered 1.2 million miles (1.9 million km) and had a disengagement rate of just once every 11,017 miles (17,730 km). GM’s Cruise Automation division reported the second-lowest rate of disengagement, with a single instance of the safety driver needing to take control every 5,205 miles (8,376 km).