Google's self-driving cars just got way better at driving themselves

Posted February 03, 2017

Google was one of the first ones to make sure that they bring their self-driving cars on the roads as well. The company register 0.80 disengagements (again, just times the self-driving software was turned off, not actual accidents) in 2015, versus only 0.20 in 2016.

Companies permitted with the state to test self-driving vehicles on public roads, including the Bay Area's Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo and Tesla Motors, Inc., must report the disengagement numbers to the DMV by the beginning of the New Year as part of the state's testing program of self-driving vehicles. For example, Waymo (formerly known as Google's self-driving division) logged just 124 disengagements (PDF) over 635,868 autonomous miles driven, an average of one disengagement every 5,000 driverless miles.

Way reported that some of the reasons of disengagments from the technology were specific to weather, reckless driving behavior from other drivers or from a "software discrepancy". That means Waymo's self-driving cars have a lower disengagement rate despite the fact that they are driving a whole lot more miles.

GM's Cruise tested a fleet of electric vehicles, including 20 Chevrolet Bolts, equipped with self-driving systems, noting the number of disengagements fell as miles traveled increased in the latter half of the year.

Dmitri Dolgov, Waymo's head of self-driving technology, said he is "happy with our progress" and optimistic that self-driving cars can soon make a difference to road safety.

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"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". "And because we're creating a self-driving auto that can take you from door to door, nearly all our time has been spent on complex urban or suburban streets", he wrote.

After the release of the report it is clear that Google's Waymo is doing so much better in testing. The vans will hit the open road in the upcoming days in Mountain View, California, and Phoenix, Arizona. He stated that Waymo's AI saw a drop in disengagement rates by four times from 2015 to 2016.

General Motors Co and its Cruise Automation affiliate logged almost 10,000 miles in self-driving vehicles on California roads.

"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 that such reports be made public.