Tesla has become the hottest car maker in America and they are doing it by focusing on data, which is something that legacy automakers are not really doing very well today. While Detroit continues to push traditional ad campaigns that focus on speed, performance, and safety, Tesla has taken a drastically different approach — and it is evidently paying off.
In the past decade, a new trend has arisen in the American automotive market. According to Inc.com, millennials perceive traditional cars as expensive and pollution-pumping modes of transportation. Amidst the rise of ride-hailing services, the next-generation of car buyers do not seem very eager to get behind the wheel of a personal vehicle, or at least one that is conventional, and acquired through a conventional dealership.
The main issue is that cars are simply not compelling or “fun” to consumers anymore. They are expensive and boring, and unfortunately, none of the traditional car manufacturers have been able to solve the riddle. Then there is Tesla. In a 60 Minutes segment, Scott Pelley said that Tesla CEO Elon Musk was revolutionizing vehicles, in the same way Steve Jobs changed the mobile industry with the iPhone.
Part of the reason behind Tesla’s success so far is the company’s focus on developing vehicles that are built from the ground up with tech. Inasmuch as traditional cars are built on horsepower, Teslas are built on data. Data that’s gathered from every vehicle in Tesla’s fleet, and data that has the potential to improve the company’s cars in terms of performance, safety, and features. Teslas have had over a decade to master this, and the company has gotten very good at its tech-centered approach.
Tesla currently utilizes data from its nearly 900,000 vehicles currently on the road to give engineers and analysts in Silicon Valley an idea of what they need to improve upon. For example, when Tesla rolled out the highly anticipated release of Smart Summon, the company utilized information from over one million uses of the software. Tesla uses the same strategy with its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving suite as well, which are stepping stones towards CEO Elon Musk’s attempts at reaching autonomy.
Meanwhile, legacy automakers are continuing to push SUVs and trucks using tried and tested strategies that are not as effective today as they were years ago. Veteran automakers such as Ford and GM have started adopting a tech-centered approach in their respective electric cars and autonomous programs, but their core remains traditional. To try and keep up with Elon Musk and the company he heads, some are even releasing “competitors” to Tesla’s Self-Driving capabilities, but they simply fall short because of a lack of data.
Take GM’s Super Cruise, for example, which is robust in its own right. While it is a capable driver-assist system that can possibly rival Navigate on Autopilot, the system can only be used in a fraction of areas that Tesla’s system can be engaged in. A lot of this gap can be attributed to the mountains upon mountains of real-world driving data that Tesla’s has, and legacy automakers don’t.
And the gap is only widening, as suggested by Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson in a recent statement. Ultimately, it appears that Tesla is pulling away from its competitors in the car industry. While other companies are struggling to keep up with the transition to electric transportation, Tesla is compiling millions of pieces of data in its efforts to improve.