Google's Autonomous Cars Driving Circles Around Competition

Several big-name companies have been testing driverless car technology for several years, with each experiencing varying levels of success.

Several big-name companies have been testing driverless car technology for several years, with each experiencing varying levels of success. One of those companies, Google, has proven to be much better than its competitors at developing technology that doesn’t require test drivers to take control of the vehicle.

When an autonomous test vehicle’s software fails, or a test driver senses danger, that operator often takes control of the vehicle. This sort of human override is typically called a disengagement. Google, along with Delphi, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Bosch have filed separate reports to the California Department of Motor Vehicles demonstrating how often each company’s drivers had to seize control of an autonomous vehicle during testing that took place between September 2014 and November 2015.

Google has been wildly successful at developing vehicles that don’t require human override. The company’s autonomous vehicles drove 424,331 miles in California during the aforementioned timeframe, and there were only 341 instances where the supervising driver had to take control. Failure of autonomous technology accounted for 272 of the 341 test driving snafus, while the supervising driver decided to take control of the car due to safety concerns on 69 occasions.

Two European automakers, Delphi and Volkswagen, were fairly successful in their autonomous car technology testing. Delphi’s vehicles drove 16,662 miles on California roads, and suffered disengagements 405 times. Volkswagen logged 14,945 testing miles, with its drivers taking over 260 times.

When Mercedes-Benz’s vehicles tested on California’s roads, they were quite likely to encounter problems. The German automaker took its autonomous test vehicles driving for 1,739 miles, encountering 1,485 disengagements.

Nissan’s autonomous car testing had to be altered 106 times during 1,485 miles of driving. Bosch had 625 disengagements during 935 miles of driving, though its disengagements were a planned test, according to the German engineering and electronics company.

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