Yesterday the California DMV published the 2020 Autonomous Vehicle Disengagement and Mileage Reports. The DMV grants permits to organizations that want to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in the state. Any organizations that do test on public roads must file reports about how many miles they drove, and how frequently their safety operators had to “disengage” the autonomous driving system in order to manually control the vehicle.
Headline numbers are that total autonomous miles summed from all companies actually decreased from 2019 to 2020, presumably due to the pandemic (also the summer wildfires). Cruise and Waymo recorded far and away the most miles, with Pony.ai a distant third, and then an asymptotic trend toward 0 miles.
The Miles Per Disengagement chart looks similar, although it includes a few surprises. For example, AutoX drove only ~41,000 autonomous miles in California during 2020, but they also only disengaged twice.
These numbers reflect only autonomous driving in California, on public roads, during 2020, which is a lot of caveats. That certainly explains why Waymo has so few miles. A few years ago they boasted of achieving 1 million autonomous miles per month, much of that in California. Now they’ve moved most of their driving miles to Arizona.
Perhaps the caveats also explain some of the big names who have major engineering teams in Silicon Valley but don’t appear in the report: Argo, Ford, Uber ATG (now Aurora, but how that merger is reflected here is unclear), and Baidu, for starters.
Tesla’s absence from the report is its own annual, recurring story. None of the standalone Class 8 trucking companies, like TuSimple, Embark, or Kodiak, appear on the list. I’m not sure if that’s because trucks go on a different list or they genuinely did 0 miles in California last year.
The reports themselves are only part of the story, though. For me, a fascinating angle is both how much attention everyone pays to the reports, and also how dismissive everyone is.
And yet, nobody seems willing to share any other numbers.
Waymo offers up their 48-page Safety Report as an alternative evaluation tool, and it is a great report, and it is more than any other company in the industry puts forward. But this report is entirely qualitative. There are no metrics in the report, and no real indication of how fast Waymo is progressing, or why they feel confident pulling safety operators from some streets in Arizona, but not others.
Other companies provide not even that much.
The big question, then, is what are the alternatives to these disengagement reports, will anybody be willing to share them, and will anybody demand to see them?