The Numbers Don’t Lie: Self-Driving Cars Are Getting Good

by  Alex Davies,  Wired

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).

Google’s Waymo drove 636,000 miles in 2016 with 124 disengagements, down 19 percent from 2015. Most of the human interventions were the result of hardware or software discrepancies. General Motors’ Cruise program recorded almost 10,000 miles, driving hundreds of miles without an incident by late last year. Delphi, which averaged 17.6 miles per disengagement, struggled with changing lanes in heavy traffic. Ford’s two autonomous cars in California only drive on highways in good weather and road conditions, so the company’s vehicles only reported three disengagements out of 590 miles driven.

The goal of the reports is to create accountability for the new technology, but the logs are unscientific and offer an incomplete view of autonomous vehicles’ safety and operating characteristics. Each disengagement involves several variables, which are recorded inconsistently. The logs do not note whether the cars are following a map or exploring an area for the first time, and they do not account for weather conditions and the proclivities of human operators.  Read the article in Wired.

DCL: Google’s Waymo is often seen driving around my neighborhood. The last time it got behind me and I remember feeling distinctly uncomfortable. Was I going to get rear-ended? But given the numbers of total idiots on the road these days, the sooner self-driving cars get their licenses, the better!

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