February 03, 2017      

When it comes to testing self-driving cars on public roads in California, Alphabet’s Waymo is crushing the competition, according to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

The CA DMV posted self-driving car “disengagement” reports for 2016 from 11 companies, including BMW, Bosch, Delphi, Ford, GM, Nissan, Tesla and Waymo, that shows how frequently a human had to take over for the automated system.

Waymo is so far ahead it’s ridiculous. According to the reports, Waymo, formerly the Google Self-Driving Car project, logged 635,868 autonomous miles in California in 2016 and reported just 124 disengagements. That equates to 0.2 disengagements for every 1,000 autonomous miles.

Check out this table below, arranged by most miles per disengagement in 2016, to see how the self-driving cars compare:

Company Autonomous Miles Disengagments Miles/Disengagement 2016 Miles/Disengagement 2015
Waymo 635868 124 5128 1244.4
BMW 638 1 638 NA
Nissan 4099 28 246.7 14
Ford 590 3 196.7 NA
Delphi 3125.3 178 17.6 41.9
GM (Cruise) 9846.5 414 9.3 NA
Tesla 550 182 3 NA
Mercedes-Benz 673.4 336 2 1.8
Bosch 983 1442 0.7 1.5
Volkswagen/Audi NA NA NA 74.8

To be fair to Tesla, most of its advanced autonomous system tests aren't done on public roads. Instead, the company says most of these tests are done on test tracks and roads in other parts of the world.

These reports are also unscientific because each disengagement involves many variables. For example, the reports don't reveal the impact of weather, where the disengagements occurred, or whether the self-driving cars where following a known route or exploring an area for the first time.

Waymo Self-Driving Cars Crushing Competition

But the reports do show significant progress is being made. Waymo increased its autonomous driving in CA by 50 percent in 2016, and its reported disengagements fell from 341 in 2015 to 124 in 2016. That means Waymo's disengagement rate fell from 0.8 per thousand miles to 0.2 per thousand miles in 2016.

"This four-fold improvement reflects the significant work we've been doing to make our software and hardware more capable and mature," Dmitri Dolgov, head of self-driving technology for Waymo, wrote in a blog. "And because we're creating a self-driving car that can take you from door to door, almost all our time has been spent on complex urban or suburban streets. This has given us valuable experience sharing the road safely with pedestrians and cyclists, and practicing advanced maneuvers such as making unprotected left turns and traversing multi-lane intersections."

Waymo's disengagements were mostly caused by software glitches, while "unwanted maneuvers," "perception discrepancies," and "recklessly behaving road user" caused dozens of disengagements.

California requires companies that want to test autonomous vehicles on the roads to register for an autonomous driving permit. As part of this program, companies are also required to report their disengagement rates to the DMV, which then makes those numbers public.

2016 Autonomous Vehicle Disengagement Reports

Below are the links to each of the aforementioned companies 2016 Autonomous Vehicle Disengagement Report:

Alphabet (Waymo)
GM Cruise