Waymo builds big lead in autonomous car testing

Alphabet's Waymo self-driving car

Waymo Appears to be ahead of their competitors

The gap between the most advanced self-driving car firms and their competitors that have hard time to make their technology safe for the roads broadened last year, the new figures released on Wednesday show.

The data, concerning testing of autonomous vehicles in California, sowed the big lead that Waymo, the Alphabet subsidiary which started life as Google’s self-driving car project, has constructed over its main rivals.

By contrast, Uber, which delayed its tests after a fatal accident concerning one of its cars in Arizona last March, saw a deterioration in its reported test results from 2018. The company views a movement to autonomous cars as one of the biggest long-term factors effecting its potentials in ride hailing, though in the past it has talked about spinning off its project.

The figures are motivated by many factors, including the level of difficulty the companies set for their automobiles and different measures of measuring the results, weakening the cost of direct comparisons between companies from one year to the next. But the publication of test figures in California — the only US state to need the disclosures — still provides the strongest public proof of the state of autonomous vehicle technology.

At Waymo, which started work on driverless cars over a decade ago, the company’s back-up drivers in California only had to take interest and take control of the vehicles once every 11,018 miles last year. That was almost two times the average distance its robot cars drove with no human intervention in 2017 trials.

“A lower rate of disengagements indicates that our cars are getting better at recognising and handing a wide variety of situations,” Waymo stated, consisting “edge cases”, or rarely seen scenarios that are difficult for a car to handle. But the company added that the disengagement rates indicated in the California data were only sole measure of performance.

Cruise Automation, the General Motors-owned company that is Waymo’s closest competitor, registered an even bigger enhancement from its tests, though it still lags by a wide margin. Its drivers were needed to take back control once every 5,205 miles, compared with once every 1,236 miles in 2018.

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