Self-driving cars are frequently in the news. The technology has progressed strongly, but we’re nowhere near ‘perfect’ yet. There are a significant number of companies working on test vehicles, especially in California, with the focus on improving safety and the cars’ software capabilities. As Niall McCarthy, a data analyst at Statista writes in Forbes, “Disengagements, and the reasons they occur, are a key part of that test process.” What are ‘disengagements’? A disengagement is what happens when the car’s software detects a problem, or the driver sees some danger coming, and is then able to take control of the car, so it is no longer self-driving.
According to data from the California DMV published by website The Last License Holder, test models experience different levels of disengagement. For example, Google’s Waymo is way out ahead of the pack when it comes to “flawless autonomy.” The company’s cars covered an impressive 1.27 million miles in 2018 but more impressively still, the test fleet drove 11,154 miles per disengagement.
Las year there were 28 companies actively testing self-driving models on public roads in California. This equated to 467 vehicles with 2,036,296 miles covered in autonomous mode, and with 143,720 disengagements occurring.
Google is doing well, statistically speaking. And it is specifically doing better than Apple or Uber, who are both engaged in developing autonomous cars. Niall McCarthy reports, “Uber’s cars clocked up nearly 27,000 miles with only 0.4 miles covered per disengagement. Similarly, Apple had 1.1 miles per disengagement with just under 80,000 miles covered in total. The second-best record of miles per disengagement goes to GM Cruise with 5,205 while Zoox comes in third with 1,923.”
It is indeed somewhat strange to see Uber and Apple trailing in last place on Statista’s league table, and Mercedes Benz is only one step up from them. Even Nissan is doing better with a position around the middle of the table. Indeed, they all have a way to go to catch up with the Waymo!