Apple’s self-driving car project isn’t doing so well. Last month more than 200 employees from the team were sent to other machine learning divisions. Then in a report this week, Apple came in dead last out of 62 companies permitted to test drive autonomous vehicles in California.
The California DMV put out its annual disengagement reports Tuesday that show how often self-driving cars have to return to manual, human-controlled driving. It’s measured in disengagements per 1,000 miles or miles per disengagement.
Waymo, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet, had the best rates. Apple, the worst.
Waymo came out on top with only .09 disengagements every 1,000 miles. Put another way, its self-driving cars were able to go for 11,017 miles until a human interfered. That’s double the mileage of the second-best company, General Motor’s Cruise, at 5,205 miles per disengagement.
In a blog post Wednesday, Waymo touted its lower rate from last year and nearly 100 percent increase in number of miles traveled until disengagement (last year it was 5,595 miles).
“Disengagements in these cases are actually a good thing because they are the equivalent to discovering and solving an issue with our car’s capability,” the team wrote about the latest numbers.
Then there’s Apple. Its disengagement rate is 871 per 1,000 miles. That means every 1.1 miles it had to disengage from self-driving mode. The DMV has 18 pages listing all the takeovers.
In a December letter to the DMV, Jaime Waydo, senior director of autonomous systems engineering at Apple, wrote, “Apple’s approach to disengagements is conservative, because our system is not yet designed to operate in all conditions and situations.”
Using somewhat funky calculations, Apple said since July, its 72 permitted vehicles have driven 56,135 miles. Between April 2017 and June 2018 it only reached 24,604 miles. Apple is testing a fleet of modified Lexus RX 450h vehicles in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For Cruise, this year was a huge improvement over last year, even if its numbers lagged behind the leader, Waymo. In 2018, Cruise drove more than 447,600 autonomous miles in California, compared to 129,764 in 2017. (This year, Waymo clocked in 1.2 million miles in the state.)
Cruise and Waymo have the most cars allowed to drive in autonomous mode: 175 and 126, respectively, based on DMV data.
So far, a month and a half into the year, only four collision reports have come in — all but one happened while the cars were in manual mode. One from Waymo, two from Cruise, and one from Aurora. Apple isn’t driving as much as Cruise and Waymo, but its cars crashed twice last year.
The dismal Apple numbers show the tech company isn’t really feeling self-driving cars like it once was — it’s barely testing its vehicles and it laid off workers. Looks like the dream of a self-driving Apple Car has a ways to go.