Google’s crown as leading innovator of self-driving cars was wrestled by Chinese internet titan Baidu in one of the few widely recognized measures of progress in autonomous driving technology — but the race to develop a truly self-driving car is still up for grabs.
Widely regarded as a very secretive industry self-driving vehicles OEM companies keep the details hidden from all prying eye specially their competitors. Measuring the levels of vehicle autonomy from human interaction is limited to a few independent government body.
Enter CDMV or the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ AVD report or the yearly autonomous vehicle disengagement report, regarded as one of the golden standard measure of a vehicles technical advancement in autonomous driving.
According to the law, all companies testing their self-driving vehicles in California must report every instance in which a human safety driver had to take control of a self-driving car being tested on public roads in the state.
A safer and more innovative autonomous vehicle will require less man machine interaction as possible. So Goole’s Waymo for the longest time always had the least DPM, disengagement per mile. This changes however last year when Baidus’ Apollo, China’s search engine monster, based on the latest California DMV autonomous vehicle disengagement report had lower DPM rate. But does this mean Apollo is more advanced than Waymo?
A Waymo spokesperson told the Nikkei Asian Review, “Waymo’s position from the start — and a growing industry consensus — is that disengagements are not the best or only measure of the progress of self-driving tech,”
While a Baidu Apollo spokesperson told Nikkei “The DMV report can be used as a reference, but the ranking is not meaningful,”.
According to the California DMV report Baidu’s Apollo logged a record-breaking 0.06 disengagements per thousand miles traveled in 2019, while Waymo and Cruise’s disengagement rates averaged 0.076 and 0.08 times, respectively.
Two self-driving startups from China — AutoX and Pony.ai — came in fourth and fifth place, meaning three out of the top five companies in the ranking are Chinese reported Nikkei and General Motors-owned Cruise, came in at the 3rd place.
“At present, Apollo’s main theater is still China, where a more complicated environment needs larger-scale road testing and further technical iterations,” a Baidu Apollo spokesperson said. The race and true leader in this AV game is still up in the air and will be determined by the number of AV’s sold.