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Tesla hints at testing self-driving car prototypes outside of California


The publication of Tesla’s disengagement report for its self-driving tests in California last week has raised more questions about the program than it has answered. Some are surprised that Tesla is not more extensively testing its fully self-driving software.

Tesla had 4 self-driving Model X prototypes driving just over 500 autonomous miles on public roads in 2016. As we reported based on sources, the mileage was mainly for producing video demonstrations of what they can do with the new hardware suite. Tesla has now confirmed the information and it hints at further testing outside of California public roads to reassure those disappointed by the report. 

A Tesla spokesperson sent us a statement following the release of the report confirming that the reported limited testing in California “primarily entailed the development of creative assets”:

The report covers only autonomous vehicles testing performed on California public roads for the reporting year 2016. In this case, our public testing primarily entailed the development of creative assets for the launch of our new Autopilot hardware system.

A lot of Tesla owners and new buyers upgraded their car or bought a new Tesla following those videos and the promise that the new hardware will eventually allow the capabilities demonstrated in those videos.

That’s why it’s important for them to work on the fully self-driving program.

Tesla’s statement continued by emphasizing that most of the testing comes from the global fleet data and not a small captive fleet on California’s public roads, which is only what is reported in the disengagement report:

As is commonly known, the majority of our learning and testing comes from data from our global fleet (customer-owned and test-drive vehicles), which has driven billions of miles since Autopilot hardware was introduced, and more than 300 million miles with Autopilot engaged. These cars are not considered autonomous as defined by the California statute.

The Autopilot is currently a level 2 autonomous system and Tesla is only requiring to file for testing level 4 and 5.

They are also focusing on the Enhanced Autopilot software (level 2 and soon level 3), which is utilizing the same hardware and improving on that software ultimately can lead to full autonomy, but Tesla also showed that it has a software build for that hardware capable of level 4 autonomy.

What the report lead most people to believe is that Tesla only used this software build in 4 Model X SUVs for 550 miles in October and November.

The company has now confirmed to Electrek that they are also testing the fully self-driving system “in a number of locations” other than California’s public roads:

We also conduct testing in a number of locations that are not public roads in California.

Now that can mean private roads in California and public or private roads anywhere else. Several other states have introduced rules to allow testing of level 4 and 5 autonomous driving system. Nevada and Michigan have been the most popular ones after California.

Tesla refused to elaborate further, but it clearly hints at more actual road testing of its fully self-driving technology beyond using the data from its Autopilot fleet.

Where do you think they are testing? Let us know in the comment section below.

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