As Tesla Inc.'s (TSLA) Model 3 sedan starts rolling off the Fremont, Calif., assembly line in bigger and bigger numbers, Tesla is secretly generating an extremely valuable asset: Data.

The latest software update for the Model 3 shows that Tesla is leveraging the bulging size of its fleet to collect data from Autopilot cameras to hone the AI in its self-driving car program.

In the notes from the firmware update, Tesla says it needs to, "collect short video clips using the car's external cameras to learn how to recognize things like lane lines, street signs, and traffic light positions. The more fleet learning of road conditions we are able to do, the better your Tesla's self-driving ability will become."

Tesla notes that the clips collected are anonymous and that Model 3 owners can opt out from the data-sharing program at any time. But there's clearly big incentive for drivers to share their data with Tesla; more data means better self-driving features pushed to cars' computers sooner.

Those data are also incredibly valuable as companies race to build autonomous driving programs.

Source: Tesla
Source: Tesla

Way back in 2016, Tesla had already logged 780 million miles of data from its global fleet, giving the company the ability to simulate Autopilot driving in all sorts of different conditions. Those datapoints have almost certainly grown substantially as Tesla's installed base has ballooned.

That's a big deal for investors.

Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas thinks that the data could be Tesla's most valuable asset - and the very thing that justifies the lofty valuation on shares right now.

With Tesla targeting building 6,000 Model 3 cars per week by this June (in addition to the 2,000 Model S and Model X vehicles rolling off the assembly line each week), Tesla's massive dataset is due to expand significantly in 2018.

From a technical standpoint, Tesla's price action is still stuck in a downtrend in April. In other words, it's a little too early to make a big long bet on this stock. But an abundance of major fundamental milestones related to production numbers, profitability, and new vehicle launches could soon change that.

As of this writing, the $350 level is the line in the sand that needs to be crossed in order to signal that buyers are back in control of the price action. That's still a little ways away from where shares sit right now, but it's far from a long-shot price, at this point.

Tesla bulls should keep a close eye on shares in the months ahead - there's a lot of news for Wall Street to absorb between now and June.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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