Recently, the California Department of Motor Vehicles released a batch of reports for 2019 from the companies that use self-driving vehicles in the state. By law, all organizations actively testing autonomous vehicles on public California roads are required to disclose the number of miles driven and how often individuals were forced to take control of their vehicles. It’s also known as a “disengagement.”
DMV formally defines disengagements as “deactivation of the autonomous mode when any failure of the autonomous technology is detected or when the operation of the car requires the driver to disengage the autonomous mode and take manual control over the vehicle.” Many critics say that it leaves wiggle room for organizations to withhold information about failures, like vehicles running red lights to avoid hitting pedestrians about to cross the street. However, instead of federal rules, the reports offer one of the few metrics for comparison to the pack leaders of the industry.
What the Self-Driving Reports Have To Say
According to the DMV, 60 AV permit holders have traveled approximately 2.88 million miles in autonomous mode on public roads in California during the reporting period. It’s a significant increase of more than 800,000 miles from the previous reporting cycle. Today, 64 companies have valid permits to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver on public roadways in California, up from 48 companies in 2018. It is surely worth noting that only five of these companies – AutoX, Waymo, Zoox, Pony.ai, and Aurora – have permits under the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to transport passengers. Zoox received the first one in December 2018.
Self-Driving Is the Future – Skepticism and Stalled Regulation
Unfortunately for companies like Cruise, Aurora, and Yandex, autonomous car companies can likely expect less regulatory guidance, at least in the U.S. On January 8, at CES, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced Automated Vehicles 4.0 (AV 4.0). There are new guidelines regarding self-driving cars that seek to promote “voluntary consensus standards.” They request, but they don’t mandate regular assessment of self-driving vehicle safety. They also permit those assessments to be completed by automakers themselves, as opposed to by a standards body.