California Reports Detail Self-Driving Car Progress

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【Summary】Reports published by the California DMV show that automakers are improving their self-driving cars.

Original Aaron Phillips    Feb 04, 2017 3:00 PM PT
California Reports Detail Self-Driving Car Progress

On Thursday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) published a series of disengagement reports that show self-driving cars are getting safer and more reliable.

The number of disengagement incidents, in which drivers have to resume control of the car manually, has fallen by an average of 40% across all 11 manufacturers who are participating in California's road-test program. 

The data, which is collected pursuant to state law, covered tests carried out over 2015 and 2016. The DMV published these reports after a short review period. They provide details about every time an engineer had to disengage the autonomous control of their test vehicle. 

11 Automakers Filed Disengagement Reports

BMW's autonomous cars racked up 638 miles on California roads, with just one disengagement. According to details provided by the automaker, their autonomous software had to be turned off because the systems couldn't identify the lane markings properly. 

Bosch's 3 test vehicles logged 983 miles in the past year, and posted 1,441 disengagements. Although that number seems high at first glance, with more than one disengagement per mile, Bosch is studying ways to make taking over control of an autonomous vehicle safe for drivers. According to the report, all disengagements were planned tests. 


General Motors, which purchased engineering firm Cruise, carried out tests with 23 cars. They drove a mix of Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Bolt models a total of 10,015 miles on California roads. Autonomous systems were disengaged 284 times in the fleet, all for testing purposes.

Delphi tested their fleet of 2 autonomous vehicles, driving a total of 3,125 miles. They were forced to disengage 178 times. Most of their disengagements were caused by heavy traffic, and their system apparently struggles to change lanes when other drivers are too close. According to the report, all of the disengagements were handled in less than one second.

Ford tested two Ford Fusion Hybrid Sedans on California roads in the past year. The cars drove a total of 590 miles with 3 disengagements. The most notable failure happened when their software package froze up and stopped displaying an on-screen readout. 

Google's self-driving car spinoff Waymo tested a large fleet of autonomous vehicles, racking up an impressive 635,868 miles of testing. They were forced to disengage their software 124 times. Most disengagements were caused by software glitches, and they were forced to disengage 75% less often than in 2015. 

Nissan drove their 5 test vehicles 4,099 miles, and were forced to disengage their self-driving systems 28 times during testing. The report seems to indicate that Nissan is struggling with curb detection.

Mercedes Benz drove a single vehicle 673 miles, with a total of 336 disengagements. The reasons for disengagement were roughly split between testing and the driver not feeling safe. 

Tesla tested 4 vehicles, bringing them out on the road in October and November. They drove 550 miles, and had to disengage and return control to the driver 185 times. Unlike most other manufacturers, Tesla seems to have focused on testing in rainy conditions. 

Honda and Volkswagen filed disengagement reports despite not logging any miles in the program. 

The full reports are available online at the California DMV website.

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