Waymo Way Ahead Of Uber Says California Self Driving Study

California now has granted licenses to dozens of companies to test self driving cars on its highways and byways. In exchange, it gets to see the data those companies collect. One important stat regulators focus on is something called “disengagements.” Those are the times when the self driving software draws a blank and requires the driver to take over the operation of the vehicle.

Waymo self driving Pacifica hybrid

Edison Investment Research has just completed a study of the data provided by 6 of the companies field testing autonomous driving systems in California. “The best measure of an autonomous driving solution is how often the driver has to take over to correct shortcomings in the autonomous driving software, says Richard Windsor, an analyst at Edison. “Regulations in California require those that test in the state to submit this data but typically, they all submit it in different ways.

“There are also different types of disengagement such as when the car is going to hit something (critical) or when the safety driver feels uncomfortable (ordinary). Furthermore, companies test their cars in different conditions, meaning the data can really only be used as an indication. However, the contrasts are so stark that we think that meaningful conclusions can be drawn about how advanced the autonomous driving solutions from different players really are.”

What is Windsor talking about when he says “contrast are so stark?” He means Waymo, the self driving division of Google, is so far ahead of the rest of the field that second place is too far behind to see. And Uber’s performance is, to be frank, nothing short of awful.  “Google is 5,000 times better than Uber at autonomous driving. Although Google is suing Uber for the alleged theft of its lidar design, it does not seem to have helped Uber much as it appears to be by far the worst at autonomous driving. This is still the case when one includes the regular car companies that most people have written off as having very little to offer in the new world of digital and autonomous cars.”

How bad is bad? The numbers don’t lie. The data shows that Uber test cars experienced a disengagement once for every mile driven. Uber racked up only 20,354 miles before it was banned from further testing by the California Registry of Motor Vehicles.Waymo recorded only one disengagement for every 5,128 miles driven. It has amassed a total of more than a half million miles of autonomous driving on California roads in the past 12 months.


Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, is fixated on perfecting self driving technology. “If we are not tied for first” to develop the technology, he said last year, “then the person who is in first, or the entity that’s in first, then rolls out a ride-sharing network that is far cheaper or far higher-quality than Uber’s, then Uber is no longer a thing.” Which raises this question: If Uber sucks so bad at self driving, even with access to whatever information Anthony Levandowski brought with him from Google, why does it have a market capitalization higher than Tesla? Inquiring minds want to know.

Source: The Guardian


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.