The technology powering automous vehicles has made major strides in recent years, so much so that it is tempting to ponder whether the last true driving license holders have already been born. For example, Tesla TSLA +0.5% TSLA +0.5% TSLA +0.5% has already rolled out its semi-autonomous Autopilot system with a raft of features including lane centering, traffic-aware cruise control, semi-automomous navigation and the possibility for an owner to summon his or her vehicle from a garage or parking spot. While the tech is certainly exciting, it is only one step on the road to full automony and driver supervision is still required at all times. Tesla released the first version of its full self-driving software to a small group of Beta testers on October 22, 2020 and trials are continuing.
Tesla is by no means the only manufacturer putting autonomous vehicle technology through its paces and a whole host of companies are testing vehicles on public roads in California to improve software capabilities and safety. Tesla is developing the technology through the use of coarse-grained two-dimensional maps and cameras along with radar and ultrasonic sensors. Other companies such as Google’s Waymo are also utilizing radar and ulrasonic sensors but they are relying on highly detailed centimeter-scale three dimensional maps and lidar to become the core of their autonomous driving suites. Tesla claims its development process is more difficult but that it will be more useful in the future as its vehicles will be able to drive without geo-fencing concerns.
The California DMV has released its latest disengagement report which provides an objective look at the state of the technology’s development across several dozen manufacturers. Between December 2019 and November 2020, 29 companies reported test-driving autonomous vehicles on California’s roads with 1,955,208 miles collectively covered and 3,695 disengagements occurring, according to a summary of the report’s data compiled by self-driving blog The Last Driver Licence Holder. Disengagement refers to incidences when a car’s software detects a failure or somebody onboard perceives danger, resulting in control being seized by the driver.
Waymo is way out ahead of the pack when it comes to minimizing flaws in its automous driving technology with just 21 disengagements occurring in nearly 630,000 miles of testing, equating to 29,425 miles covered per disengagement. That represents a significant improvement on the company’s performance last year when it covered 13,219 miles per disengagement. Cruise also saw a big improvement in its figures this time around with miles per disengagement leaping from 12,221 to 28,520. Both companies are far ahead of some heavyweight competitors on the list who have not covered as much ground. Take Apple AAPL +0.2%, for example, which notched up 18,805 test miles with a mere 144.6 miles covered per disengagement by comparison.
(charted by Statista)