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How Many More Miles of Testing Do Self-Driving Cars Need? 8.8 Billion, Toyota Says

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The 2017 Toyota Camry carries a starting MSRP of $23,070 and this best-selling sedan can yield up to 33 mpg on the highway

It’s been clear for several months now that Toyota is going all-in on autonomous driving—why else invest $1 billion in the new Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which is entirely dedicated to researching and developing the AI and robotics systems that can make self-driving cars possible?

Actually getting there, however, is going to be a huge ordeal. According to statements made by Toyota president and CEO Akio Toyoda at the Paris Motor Show, it will take at least 8.8 billion miles of additional testing before autonomous cars reach customers.

Let’s put that number in perspective. 8.8 billion miles is 350,000 times the circumference of the Earth, 36,800 times the distance to the moon, and 47 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun—round trip.

The Voyager I satellite is further from the Earth than any other man-made object. It was launched in 1977 and is currently just over 13.5 billion miles, having just recently left our solar system and entered interstellar space. Distance on that scale is simply mind-boggling. The fact that Toyota believes it’ll take another 8.8 billion miles of testing to work all of the kinks out of autonomous vehicles goes to show the gargantuan undertaking that is developing a self-driving car.

Also at the Paris Motor Show, Akio Toyoda revealed that Microsoft would help power the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC team to help it develop computer systems for analysis and information sharing.

Toyota is particularly interested in autonomous driving because of the big help it’ll provide to people with disabilities, to the elderly, and to those who wouldn’t otherwise drive a car today. That being said, Toyoda stressed that the self-driving component would only be a “chauffeur mode” and that the automaker is committed to making cars fun to drive.

He even went so far as to ask: “If a car is not fun to drive, what’s the point?”