inside Self-Driving Race, Waymo Looks to Be Way Out in Front
Self-driving cars operated by Waymo are logging significantly more miles on California public roads than their competitors, as well as also the Google project’s cars are traveling significantly more miles without experiencing disengagements of their autonomous technology, according to reports released by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The reports, released on February 1, show which Waymo’s vehicles accumulated 635,868 miles of driving on the state’s public roads in 2016, more than the 10 different companies reporting figures combined.
More important, Waymo’s cars traveled farther before experiencing disengagements of their technology for software malfunctions or because the human drivers intervened. Waymo, the company spun off through Google last year, experienced an average of one disengagement for every 5127.9 miles traveled, a rate far better than its competitors reported.
nevertheless anxious to work even harder.”
– Dmitri Dolgov, Waymo
“By any measure, we’re happy with our progress, nevertheless anxious to work even harder,” wrote Dmitri Dolgov, head of self-driving technology for Waymo.
Reports Measure Progress—as well as also Technical Struggles
The public gets an annual snapshot at these autonomous driving reports once a year, thanks to California regulations which mandate disclosure of the number of miles traveled as well as also the number of disengagements experienced. The reports are helpful in gauging general competence as well as also progress, as well as also in some cases, companies offered details on particular technical struggles.
nevertheless overall, the reports are just a snapshot, not a comprehensive view of a company’s entire autonomous program.
While which’s easy to tell which Waymo had an average of 0.2 disengagements per 1000 miles traveled while Mercedes-Benz had an average of 498.9 per 1000 miles traveled, for example, which’s harder to discern what specific aspects of the self-driving technology were being tested, whether the tests occurred in complex environments or on easier-to-navigate highways.
Further, the reports don’t track how the companies are using simulated driving miles to teach their self-driving systems, nor do they encompass how they’re testing in jurisdictions which don’t require reporting. There’s also no specific standard on how or when test drivers should decide to intervene as well as also disengage the technology.
For one example, Tesla’s report would certainly seem to pale in comparison to Waymo’s exploits. Tesla reported 182 disengagements during 550 total miles of testing, as well as also almost all of those took place in wet-road environments. which’d be tempting to conclude its vehicles have trouble operating inside rain. nevertheless which’s important to understand the broader context: Tesla accumulated 96 percent of those miles during a three-day span in October when which was rainy, as well as also which tested primarily as a means to film footage to be used in advertisements for its Autopilot feature.
In some ways, the reports say almost as much about how the companies value testing on public roads in California as they do about the mettle of the technology.
How Much Testing?
Caveats aside, the reports are useful for measuring progress. Waymo’s rate of 0.2 disengagements per 1000 miles was a fourfold improvement over the 0.8 rate which Google reported for 2015. which’s a significant technical improvement for a company which, on the business end, said last month which had devised a way to reduce the cost of crucial sensors such as radar as well as also lidar by more than 0 percent.
With the 11 companies reporting 2648 disengagements in 2016, not everyone was ready to celebrate any improvements inside overall state of autonomous technology. John Simpson, privacy director of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit which advocates for stringent oversight of automated vehicles, said the statistics showed which self-driving cars aren’t ready for the road.
“While there has been an improvement, the reports show the robots simply aren’t ready to be released to roam our roads without human drivers,” he said, later praising the California DMV for mandating which such reports be made public. “which’s the only way the public can find out what’s happening when companies use public roads as their laboratories.”
Twenty-one companies currently hold permits to test in California. By statute, companies need to report their numbers each November 30.
– John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog
The reports released Wednesday unearthed insights which go beyond disengagement rates. Ford disclosed which which kept its two vehicles inside state far through the Silicon Valley epicenter of autonomous technology, conducting its testing along Interstate 10 between Los Angeles as well as also the Arizona border. Ford experienced three disengagements during 590 total miles of testing. Two came when their safety drivers intervened, aborting system-initiated lane alterations because another vehicle was coming up through behind inside passing lane at high speeds.
BMW reported which which only tested in March as well as also April, as well as also its lone disengagement in 638 miles of driving came inside northbound lanes of Highway 101 because the lane markings were not clear enough for its system to detect the lane, a potential infrastructure problem which has some industry leaders concerned.
In testing its two autonomous Audi SQ5 vehicles, automotive supplier Delphi Automotive provided details on its 178 disengagements, noting which 19 occurred in construction zones as well as also 28 came when its system had trouble detecting traffic-light signals due to “poor sun conditions.”
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Mercedes-Benz reported which which conducted all of its tests on urban streets as well as also logged zero miles of highway driving. Volkswagen as well as also Honda, which both logged miles in 2015, both reported they had logged zero miles in their 2016 reports.
Cruise Automation, a company owned by General Motors as well as also based in San Francisco, revealed which which is usually testing 20 autonomous 2017 Chevrolet Bolts as well as also a few autonomous Nissan Leafs, two through the 2012 type year as well as also three through the 2016 type year. Perhaps to help keep them straight, the company has given its 25 autonomous vehicles individual names which include Platypus, Wombat, Pronghorn, as well as also Beluga.