According to driving statistics published by California, Uber is the worst of six major self-driving car companies testing its vehicles in the state.
The self-driving minicab firm experienced a “disengagement” – when the automated system forces the human driver/passenger to take over control of the vehicle – once every mile driven, with a total of 20,354 miles clocked up before it was banned from testing in the state.
By contrast, at the top of the table was Waymo, Google’s sibling company, with one disengagement every 5,128 miles driven, and more than half a million miles driven in the last 12 months.
The figures shed new light on the ongoing lawsuit between Waymo and Uber. The latter company is accused of stealing intellectual property after it acquired a self-driving truck company, Otto, which had been founded by Anthony Levandowski, a former Waymo employee. The technology in question is the design of the lidararray, the light-based imaging system that sits on the top of self-driving cars to help them see the world around them.
Richard Windsor, an analyst at Edison Investment Research who put together the figures from the reported data, said “Google is 5,000 times better than Uber at autonomous driving. Although Google is suing Uber for the alleged theft of its lidar design, it does not seem to have helped Uber much as it appears to be by far the worst at autonomous driving. This is still the case when one includes the regular car companies that most people have written off as having very little to offer in the new world of digital and autonomous cars.”
Between Uber and Waymo sits Nissan, with one disengagement every 146 miles and a total of 4,099 miles driven. BMW, Tesla and Mercedes all also beat Uber’s disengagement rate, although none of the three firms have filed more than a1,000 miles of testing in the last 12 months.
Windsor said: “The best measure of an autonomous driving solution is how often the driver has to take over to correct shortcomings in the autonomous driving software. Regulations in California require those that test in the state to submit this data but typically, they all submit it in different ways. There are also different types of disengagement such as when the car is going to hit something (critical) or when the safety driver feels uncomfortable (ordinary). Furthermore, companies test their cars in different conditions, meaning the data can really only be used as indication.
“However, the contrasts are so stark that we think that meaningful conclusions can be drawn about how advanced the autonomous driving solutions from different players really are.”
Uber has long argued that an in-house autonomous driving capability is crucial to its long-term success as a company. “If we are not tied for first” to develop the technology, Uber’s chief executive Travis Kalanick said last year, “then the person who is in first, or the entity that’s in first, then rolls out a ride-sharing network that is far cheaper or far higher-quality than Uber’s, then Uber is no longer a thing.”
Neither Uber’s head office nor Waymo replied to requests for comment.
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