Waymo, Google's self-driving car company, has shown significant improvement during its vehicle testing last year. This is based on a report published on Wednesday by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
The report shows that Waymo had 0.2 disengagements for every 1,000 miles driven in 2016. In 2015, the company had 0.8 disengagements for every 1,000 miles.
In the auto world, a disengagement is the number of times when the self-driving software was turned off and a driver had to take over from a self-driving car. Another number to take note of is the 50 percent increase of miles driven by Waymo's cars in the state, racking up a total of 635,868 miles. That means Waymo's self-driving cars have a lower disengagement rate despite the fact that they are driving a whole lot more miles.
What Do Disengagement Numbers Mean?
It should be noted that most of these disengagements are not because of accidents. These are instances when a driver needed to shut down the self-driving software in order to make some kind of fix. The decreased number of disengagement shows that drivers interrupt the system less often, which signifies an improvement in the self-driving car technology.
Some of the instances where a disengagement could happen is when there is a system failure, traffic, bad weather, or any other road situation that may require human intervention.
Waymo tests its self-driving cars using complicated environments such as busy urban streets, in order to replicate real-life situations, which a typical driver would likely encounter while on the road.
Waymo Happy With California DMV Report
In a Medium blog post published by Waymo's head of self-driving technology, Dmitri Dolgov says that the company's cars have consumed more than 2.5 million miles of self-driving on public roads. Dolgov further adds that disengagements are "a natural part of the testing process and occur when a driver takes manual control of a vehicle while it is in autonomous mode." Dolgov also says that disengagements allow their engineers to "expand hardware capabilities and identify areas of improvement."
California requires self-driving auto companies that test their cars on public roads to participate in the state's autonomous vehicle testing program. These companies are also required to come up with their numbers regarding instances of disengagements and miles traveled while in self-driving mode. Waymo has been submitting reports to the California DMV since 2015.
For 2016, 10 other companies aside from Waymo submitted their disengagement reports. This includes Tesla, which also ran limited disengagement tests on its cars.