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The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) released its annual report on the number of miles self-driving test cars owned by various companies have logged in the state. The new figures cover the year ended November 30, 2017, and also record the number of times a driver had to take control of the vehicle, known as a disengagement.
California has been a hotbed for autonomous car testing for several years, meaning the report offers a unique glimpse into how far along many companies are in their self-driving car projects.
Here are some of the highlights from the report:
- Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car spinoff, logged 352,545 miles on the state's public roads in the year, the most of any company. That's actually about 44% fewer miles than the 635,868 Waymo's cars drove the year prior, although this reflects the firm's efforts to move more cars to the Phoenix area ahead of a potential commercial launch this year. Waymo also logged the most test miles driven in 2016, completing 97% of all self-driving test miles driven, but in 2017 it only completed about 70% of all test miles driven in the state. Meanwhile, the company's cars only disengaged 63 times this year, or only once every 5,595 miles, an improvement from when its cars needed to be taken over, on average, once every 5,127 miles, and far better than any other company's rate.
- General Motors' (GM) Cruise Automation took the second spot for most miles driven, finishing the year at 131,675 miles, or 26% of the total. That's up drastically from the 9,668 miles the company's cars logged in California in 2016, and is largely due to the ride-hailing service its autonomous cars operate for Cruise employees in San Francisco. In addition, the company improved its disengagement rate, from once every 34 miles in 2016 to once every 1,254 miles in 2017, coming in second only to Waymo.
- At a distant third was Drive.ai, a three-year-old autonomous software startup, which logged 6,015 miles last year, up substantially from 557 miles the prior year, while Nissan came in fourth with 5,007 miles. That's up from the 4,099 miles the Japanese automaker logged in California in 2016, while its disengagement rate improved from once every 146 miles in 2016 to once every 208 miles last year. Unlike other companies, Drive.ai didn't break down its disengagements by year, saying only that its cars needed to be taken control of 151 times since it started testing them in early 2016.
The report largely confirms GM and Waymo are leading the race to develop self-driving cars, as BI Intelligence recently noted, but also sheds new light on the progress of several startups in the space. Both Waymo and GM are expected to have commercial ride-hailing fleets featuring their self-driving technologies in operation by the end of next year. And these figures suggest they remain on track to beat the rest of the competition to market, as their cars continue to progress technologically.
Meanwhile, the progress of Drive.ai and fellow startup Zoox, which logged 2,244 test miles and has raised $290 million, indicates that startups are making headway in the space, despite grabbingonly a small fraction of the total dollars spent on autonomous technologies. These startups could potentially be acquired by tech companies or legacy players looking to either accelerate their self-driving technology development, or integrate their technologies into later iterations of their autonomous systems.
Peter Newman, research analyst for BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on self-driving cars that:
- Sizes the current and future self-driving car market, forecasting shipments and projecting installed base.
- Explains the current state of technology, regulation, and consumer perception.
- Analyzes how the development of autonomous cars will impact employment and the economy.
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