Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) thinks its breakthrough for radar's increased role in Autopilot version 8.0 will cut the company's accident rates in half and make its all-electric cars about three times safer than any car on the road. But don't expect competition to announce similar, just-as-capable features for their fleets anytime soon. Tesla's latest update for radar leans heavily on the company's unique strengths.
But some might ask: Can't other automakers just as easily accumulate this data and put it to work? At some point in the future, yes. But it's not looking like it will be anytime soon. Why? Tesla's Autopilot is likely getting far more use than competitors' driver assist systems. Two recent comparisons -- one by The Drive and the other by Car and Driver -- of the top driver-assist systems available in production vehicles clearly indicated the Autopilot driving experience is superior to other options. Even more, most driver-assist systems in production cars aren't capable of automatic lane changes, rendering sustained use of the technology impossible, and putting competition at a huge disadvantage in accumulating driver-assist miles. Meanwhile, Tesla's Autopilot miles adding up faster than ever; the company said on Sunday its fleet had driven roughly 200 million miles on Autopilot -- up impressively from 130 million miles on June 30.
And Musk believes there's still plenty of room for Autopilot enhancements, thanks to software and fleet learning:
With this upgrade, in terms of a macro of major improvements, yes, we are almost reaching the limit. But it is important to emphasize that the fleet learning will continue. And the intelligence with how that fleet learning is applied to the car will continue to improve. So though we're reaching the limit of the hardware, I think we're still quite far from reaching the limit of the algorithmic intelligence on the car and, of course, anything that's done on our servers. ... I'm quite certain that it will continue to improve quite a lot, just because the software and the data will improve quite a lot. And by quite a lot I mean an enormous amount. So, it will continue to improve for years to come -- even with the existing hardware.
If Tesla's radar update lives up to the hype, the company's real-world experience with sophisticated driver-assist data could begin to morph into a competitive advantage. And fast-growing sales as the company brings its lower-cost Model 3 to a much larger market late next year may amplify this advantage ahead of Tesla's longer-term goal of bringing autonomous vehicles to the masses .
Tesla's unique combination of electric vehicles, software expertise, in-house design of its Autopilot system, and a gaping lead in driver-assist technology could sneak up on competition if Detroit automakers don't follow through with their big plans for autonomous technology.
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Daniel Sparks owns shares of Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .