U.S. Tops List of Driverless Test Successes in California


American companies take top 7 spots over entries from China

American companies topped the list of total distances for autonomous vehicles that were tested in California in 2018. The U.S. had 13 of its entries dominating a top 25 list of participants, including seven that were ranked at the very top.

By far, the best performance assessment went to Google’s driverless endeavor Waymo, which had 98 cars log in more than 1.2 million miles of road testing, including only 11,000 miles that required driver assistance. The distance is roughly 50 times the circumference of the earth. As well, the level of human intervention was half of what was reported in 2017.

Waymo’s output was more than twice the numbers achieved by second-place finisher, GM Cruise, which covered more than 447,000 miles, including slightly more than 5,000 miles that needed a driver to take over.

Further back was Apple in third, although it was the most improved participant, previously finishing 18th in 2017. Rounding out the top seven were Aurora, Zoox, Nuro and AutoX Technologies.

While American companies comprised more than half of top 25 participants, China has been edging its way into the testing grounds, with eight companies making the cut. Its best performer was Baidu, logging in barely 18,000 miles with just over 200 miles in which a driver had to step in. Still, it’s a much better series of results given that only five Chinese firms reached the top 25 the year before.

Interestingly, Japanese companies, which have been on the cutting edge for years of automotive innovation, didn’t fare as well. Only two of the country’s companies, 14th place Nissan and 23rd place Toyota, made the cut. Other countries that host companies managing to make the list were Hungary and Germany.

The results are significant in that California has been the go-to destination for autonomous vehicle testing, an outdoor laboratory where companies can assess the vehicle’s performance on public roadways and garner information on how to improve their products. While California has been a willing host for this activity, it hasn’t been without a rigid set of laws in Assembly Bill 87, passed by the state in 2017. Even with its stipulations in place, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles granted permission to 62 companies wanting to test vehicles on the state’s roads. While the DMV makes it mandatory for participants to provide them with results, so far, 48 companies have submitted reports to the regulatory body.

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