For tech companies that are experimenting with self-driving car technologies, there's nothing more important than data, and the best way to get that data is to test their systems in the wild.
That's why companies like Waymo make such a big deal about hitting major "X miles driven" milestones. The more their self-driving cars are traveling US roads, with or without passengers, the more information they can acquire and the better their tech will get over time.
Indeed, Waymo recently clocked in over 10 million miles of autonomous car driving on public roads. The data gathered from that mileage has helped them begin preparations to launch their upcoming self-driving taxi service.
Now, though, Tesla is swooping in to blow that number out of the park.
As reported by Electrek, the carmaker's customers have driven a whopping one billion miles with Autopilot assistance. That number is a massive achievement for Tesla, but it wouldn't be fair to directly compare it to what Waymo and other companies have achieved.
For starters, Autopilot is not a full self-driving system; not yet. Drivers are still required to maintain control of their vehicles at all times, so Tesla's technology isn't being left to fend for itself (in theory).
While this may be a safer route to take from a legal perspective -- if crashes occur, the blame can be placed on the driver rather than the tech -- it also means any data gathered from Autopilot's use isn't quite as "pure."
With that said, we aren't detracting from Tesla's accomplishments, and all of those miles driven have still undoubtedly provided the company with plenty of useful information.
How Tesla will use that information moving forward remains to be seen, but perhaps Autopilot will become a fully-autonomous driving feature sooner rather than later.