If you add up the distance that Elon Musk’s Teslas have traveled with the driver-assisting Autopilot technology enabled, it would be more than enough to travel to Mars and back twice.
On Friday — the same day that Tesla announced its cars have now traveled more than 3 billion miles — Musk shared the news on Twitter that Autopilot-powered Teslas have rolled some 222 million miles since the semi-autonomous technology’s debut almost a year ago.
Musk then shared a link to an NBC News story about the 10.4 percent increase in automotive deaths during the first half of 2016, compared to the previous year. Musk didn’t go out and say it outright, but the conclusion is there: Autonomous automotive technology might be the best way to make the country’s roads safer. Autonomous vehicles are becoming more and more common on the roads, and even President Obama is optimistic about them.
Not that Autopilot is perfect. In May of this year, Tesla enthusiast Joshua Brown was killed when his Tesla Model S’s Autopilot system didn’t recognize a tractor-trailer pulling out in front of him. The National Transportation Safety Board launched an investigation into the technology after Brown’s death.
Still, Musk is optimistic about Tesla’s software. In September, he held a press conference with reporters on a Sunday to talk about the latest version of Autopilot, which uses a radar system that he claims could have prevented Brown’s accident, which may have been caused when the Autopilot system failed to detect the tractor trailer because of its high ground clearance.
“It does not matter what the object is, it just knows that there’s something dense that it’s going to hit and it should not hit that,” Musk said then. “Whereas the vision system really needs to know what the thing is.”
Version 8 of the first generation of Autopilot became available for download on September 21. There’s more to come, too, Musk said during an investor call in August: “Full autonomy is going to come a hell of a lot faster that anyone thinks it will and I think what we’ve got under development is going to blow people’s minds.”
So expect that 222 million number to increase exponentially and, hopefully, make the roads safer.Photos via Getty Images / Justin Sullivan