Google takes lead on California driverless cars

 

As Silicon Valley rushes to stake out a lead in what’s hoped to be a robust market for driverless cars, the company spun off of Google has established a clear lead — perhaps giving the competition a reason to consider focusing their efforts outside the Golden State. 

“New data on tests of self-driving car technology in California suggest that Alphabet Inc.’s efforts remain ahead of many rivals in the intensifying race to bring fully autonomous vehicles to the roads,” the Wall Street Journal reported, noting that the company’s driverless unit, Waymo, clocked nearly 640,000 miles on California roads in a 12-month span encompassing the end of 2015 and most of 2016.

Pulling ahead

The newly released figures underscored how significant of an advantage in experience and testing the Google-spawned enterprise has gained over its rivals, which now include not only the likes of Tesla and Apple but old-line auto companies like GM and Ford that have begun to move into the driverless space as well. “The data show that Waymo, the driverless car unit of Alphabet, logged 30 times more miles of testing in autonomous vehicles than all of its competitors combined last year in California,” according to Financial Times. “Its cars were also the most accurate, with human intervention needed for safety reasons only 0.2 times per thousand miles.”

“The data provide the most comprehensive snapshot yet of competing driverless car technologies, at a time when carmakers and technology companies are racing to be the first to perfect autonomous vehicles. It shows Waymo, BMW, Ford and Nissan as the most accurate systems. California is unique in the U.S. for requiring that companies testing autonomous vehicles report their miles driven and ‘disengagements’ (when a human driver has to take over the wheel) each year. In the absence of federal laws on self-driving cars, these disclosures are the only comprehensive information that allow for side-by-side comparisons between carmakers.”

Only by racking up lots of miles on the road can driverless companies accumulate enough instances of disengagement to correct and refine its programming. Human takeover, Waymo explained in its report, “[is] a natural part of the testing process that allow our engineers to expand the software’s capabilities and identify areas of improvement,” Marketwatch reported. “It marked a 50 percent increase in total autonomous miles within California compared with the prior reporting period, which was two months longer than this reporting period, it said. The number of disengagements fell 75 percent to 124 last year from 341 in 2015, Waymo said.”

Greener pastures?

Despite the flurry of activity, some in Sacramento have found cause for concern. The same absence of federal law that helped make California such a hotbed of activity brought with it a potential downside — regulatory reactions against the modest risks that the development of driverless cars can bring to streets. In fact, in a recent tiff that rattled nerves, Uber refused to apply for state permits for its self-driving vehicles, drawing a reprimand that saw the powerful ride-sharing company opt to ship its driverless fleet to welcoming Arizona. Hoping to head off a stampede, a new bill introduced by State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, “would require the DMV to immediately accept or reject an application to put a driverless car on the road,” as the Los Angeles Times reported. If passed, the legislation would clear a considerable hurdle now facing companies like Uber in California. “The regulations the DMV has proposed, by contrast, would give the agency 180 days — nearly half a year — to decide yes or no.”

Competition has geared up nationwide for the favor of driverless car companies, which especially covet urban environments where they can be free to test their vehicles in complex but reasonably controllable environments. GM President Dan Ammann told the Chicago Sun-Times, “GM is awaiting the state Legislature’s approval before it can consider testing self-driving cars here, as it does already in California, Arizona and in the Detroit area,” the paper noted. “Yet even without the legislation, GM has introduced in Chicago its Maven car-sharing service, which is envisioned as eventually operating with driverless cars for hire, and Express Drive, which lets drivers for GM’s partner Lyft rent a car at a subsidized rate. The rental program is GM’s entry into developing a network that will eventually include driverless cars.”

14 comments

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  1. tino
    tino 15 February, 2017, 10:19

    Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, “would require the DMV to immediately accept or reject an application to put a driverless car on the road,” as the Los Angeles Times reported. If passed, the legislation would clear a considerable hurdle now facing companies like Uber in California. “The regulations the DMV has proposed, by contrast, would give the agency 180 days — nearly half a year — to decide yes or no.”

    Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, should not force the issue. DMV is playing safety first or Mateo should held accountable for any deaths.

    Reply this comment
  2. Standing Fast
    Standing Fast 15 February, 2017, 17:35

    There comes appoint in technological development where just about everything has been improved about as far as it can go. Then, the new advancements tend toward novelties and nuisances. Such is the innovation of driverless cars. I can see they may have application for specific purposes, none of those purposes exists in a vacuum. I am not one who believes that flawed human beings are capable of constructing flawless devices. So, I find it amusing that proponents of driverless cars, like the Auto Club of Southern California and CalWatchdog, like to trot out their favorite argument, that automated self-driving vehicles are safer than cars driven by human beings. Well, I don’t think so. There aren’t very many of these idiot-machines on the road, but from time to time I read about the accidents they are involved in. And, it always seems to me that the cause is a flaw in the driverless car and not the human beings driving the other vehicles involved. Recently I read about one driverless car that did not stop when it encountered a large white trailer or something. It crashed right into the object. I think the occupant of the car was killed. Apparently the high-tech sensory-equipment on the superior machine did not interpret the big white trailer as an impenetrable object. On the other hand, there are many human beings who, upon discovering the vehicle they are driving is suffering from some kind of malfunction, are quick-witted enough to figure out how to maneuver it out of the way and avoid accidents and injuries. In my opinion driverless cars are the scariest thing on the road, after people who like to talk or text on their cellphones or whatever they are using.

    Reply this comment
  3. Dude
    Dude 15 February, 2017, 17:37

    California is run by liberal Nazis that would rather see many families lose their farms, homes and everything else just to save a stupid little fish. If we allow Sacramento a say in this, it will go from,”Autonomous cars are great for those who want to relax on the way to work”, to “We have decided that you are no longer allowed to self-drive. You will use government owned Autonomous cars. It will make it that much easier to control your movements and behavior”

    Reply this comment
    • Standing Fast
      Standing Fast 15 February, 2017, 17:45

      Well, I agree that Sacramento is run by people who bear an unfortunate resemblance to those goose-stepping nuts who signed a peace treaty with Neville Chamberlain so long ago, however I do think there is a way to save a stupid little fish without causing families to lose their farms, homes and everything else. But, I think your prediction about the future of these idiot-mobiles makes more sense than most of what I read about them. I hope everyone is paying attention.

      Reply this comment
  4. ricky65
    ricky65 15 February, 2017, 20:55

    Why not driver-less cars?
    We already have a rudderless state government running with a heartless drone at the helm.

    Reply this comment
  5. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 16 February, 2017, 07:54

    A driverless car that takes moonbeam and newsom to the nearists prison and leaves them there in fact theres a episode of the classic series THE TWILIGHT ZONE about a man involved ina hit and run accident but his car wont allow him to escape his crime

    Reply this comment
  6. ricky65
    ricky65 19 February, 2017, 09:34

    Just wondering: When a driverless car car runs a red light and is photographed by a driverless red light camera cop, who pays for the ticket?

    Reply this comment
    • Standing Fast
      Standing Fast 20 February, 2017, 10:29

      Exactly. I think the manufacturer of the driverless vehicle should pay. After all, wouldn’t this have to be classified as a vehicle malfunction? Everyone already knows that red-light cameras never make mistakes.

      Reply this comment
  7. Queeg
    Queeg 20 February, 2017, 09:36

    Comrades

    Tech trinket makers , corporate food barons and Globalist slavers not ya friend.

    Anything that breathes or moves will be taxed by Plutocrats and the Publicans.

    The masses will come for the elites first!
    That’s all you need to know on CWD.

    Reply this comment
  8. G In Law
    G In Law 20 February, 2017, 13:14

    This is just the steppingstone to flying transportation. Driverless automobiles need to happen first, then we start traveling in the air.

    Reply this comment
    • Standing Fast
      Standing Fast 20 February, 2017, 13:23

      Yes, I’ve read about the airborne version of driverless cars. And people actually think that is going to work–I mean, as a safe and sane form of personal transportation? What happens when the contraption malfunctions? Or there is a collision of two or more of them? And what about whoever is on the ground beneath the accident? How dumb do you have to be to think these things up?

      Reply this comment

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