It’s report card time for the automakers and Silicon Valley denizens studying the tricky problem of making cars drive themselves, and everyone is passing.
The California DMV just released its annual slate of “disengagement reports,” documents provided by the 11 companies that received state permits to test autonomous vehicles by the end of 2015.
The results, summarized below, reveal how often humans had to wrest control away from the computer, and why (sort of).
Although the reports are an imperfect measure of how the technology performs, they do reveal rapid progress toward the day when you are no longer needed behind the wheel.
Google and General Motors are leading the class with cars capable of driving hundreds of miles at a stretch without trouble. But even those who don’t make the honor roll show impressive gains. Nissan’s robocars, for example, needed human intervention once every 247 miles, compared to once every 14 miles in 2015.
The reports, which cover December 2015 to November 2016, leave a lot to be desired—more on that in a moment—but do offer interesting insights. Google’s program, now called Waymo and gearing up for commercial applications, continues outpacing the competition. The company’s cars drove 636,000 miles with just 124 disengagements, a 19 percent drop from 2015. Its fleet logged nearly all those miles on the quiet, suburban streets of Mountain View and its environs, and most of the interventions followed hardware or software discrepancies, when, say, the car’s lidar and camera reported slightly different data.
Cruise, the startup leading GM’s autonomous driving efforts, did all its testing in San Francisco, where it ramped up from five miles in June 2015, to 400 in June 2016. By late last year, it was clocking hundreds of miles without a hitch.
Most of Delphi’s trouble came while changing lanes in heavy traffic. Ford’s two autonomous cars in California only drive on the highway, during the day, with fine weather and road conditions, which explains why it only needed human help three times in 590 miles. (It has a larger test fleet in Michigan, which doesn’t require any reporting.) The little testing Tesla reported (just 550 miles) was part of its preparation to launch a revamped Autopilot system. It gets most of its data from its customers, driving in the real world.
Like the state’s requirement that companies publicly report any crashes involving their robo-rides, the point of these reports is to create accountability for the new technology. In a field reliant upon complex software, artificial intelligence, and sophisticated hardware, disengagements provide a metric the average person can understand. They reveal how often the car screws up so badly that the human inside had to take over.
But, like crash reports (which mostly reveal that people cannot stop rear-ending Google cars), they don’t tell the whole story.
Read more of the original article at Wired.