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Waymo’s disengagement stats show China’s self-driving cars are still far behind

Waymo continues to keep its place at the top of the self-driving car industry; so much so that Baidu, the company behind one of China’s biggest self-driving car initiatives, has found that it is still lagging far behind the American company in terms of system disengagement rates.

Baidu, which is based in Beijing, has been testing its self-driving vehicles in California. According to a report submitted to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Baidu’s autonomous cars required a manual intervention every 41 miles. Between October 2016 and November 2017, Baidu’s self-driving vehicles traveled a total of 1,971.7 miles, with 48 instances of system disengagements.

A disengagement refers to an instance when backup drivers override a car’s self-driving system by manually operating the vehicle. Usually, disengagements happen when the autonomous system fails, according to a South China Morning Post report.

In contrast to Baidu’s stats, Waymo’s disengagement figures are a lot more impressive. Between October 2016 to November 2017, Waymo’s autonomous fleet traveled a total of 352,544.6 miles, with only 65 cases of manual interventions. That’s one disengagement every 5,596 miles.

Cruise Automation, Waymo’s rival in the United States, also logged some impressive stats. Last year, Cruise’s autonomous cars traveled 131,000 miles on the road. The GM partner’s vehicles only required an intervention every 1,250 miles.

Considering the disengagement rates of Waymo, and Cruise for that matter, it appears that Baidu’s autonomous cars are still far behind in terms of software and technology. According to Baidu’s report with the DMV, situations such as “localization error-caused drift” and “misclassification of traffic light detection” became reasons behind the company’s high rate of disengagements.

Considering the experience of Waymo in the self-driving field, it is not difficult to see why the company has such a notable gap with Baidu in terms of system refinement. As noted by Waymo CEO John Krafcik back in March, the company’s vehicles continue to go through the “world’s longest and toughest ongoing driving test.”

During the March event, Krafcik noted that its fleet of self-driving vehicles had traveled a total of 5 million autonomous miles across 25 cities to date. The autonomous cars have also traveled an additional 5 billion self-driving miles in simulation.

While Baidu is still far behind Waymo when it comes to its self-driving technology, the Chinese internet giant is not to be discounted. After all, last November, Baidu was identified by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology as the national standard bearer for the country’s self-driving efforts. The company is also attempting to develop a self-driving system that can work on Level 4 autonomy.

Waymo’s disengagement stats show China’s self-driving cars are still far behind

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