Apple Places Dead Last In Autonomous Car Disengagements Reported To CA DMV

It looks as though Apple's autonomous vehicle efforts still have a ways to go before they can compare with the best in the industry. The numbers are in, and Apple reported more self-driving vehicle disengagements than any other company. Apple’s 62 vehicles experienced a grand total of 69,510 disengagements.

A “disengagement” is when an autonomous vehicle either gives control back to the driver or when a driver interferes. Ideally, the self-driving car should remain “engaged” during the entirety of the drive unless there is an unusual and unavoidable emergency. Apple reported 871.65 disengagements per 1000 miles or a disengagement occurrence every 1.1 miles. Google’s autonomous vehicle branch Waymo performed better than all of its competitors. Waymo reported a total of 114 disengagements or 0.09 disengagements per 1000 miles.

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The report was for the period between December 2017 and November 2018. The numbers were reported to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from 28 companies operating 321 vehicles. This report does not include vehicles that were operating in other states or countries.

There are a couple of things to note. First, although Apple ranked last in this report, several companies were not far ahead of them. For example, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) reported 829.61 disengagements per 1000 miles. Nearly half of the companies on the list experienced more than 100 disengagements per 1,000 miles.

Second, the report is incomplete. Some companies like Waymo did not include their number of vehicles in operation. Other companies like Subaru reported their number of vehicles, but not their disengagements.

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Third, the report may be inaccurate. The numbers are self-reported and there is no one clear definition for “disengagement”. Some companies may define a “disengagement” differently than others. It is also unclear how many vehicles Apple was actually testing as of November 2018. This report states that Apple tested 62 vehicles, but others have insisted that the company was testing more than 70 vehicles in California. 

Last, some claim that Apple is purposely reporting lackluster numbers in hopes of drawing attention away from their self-driving vehicles. Apple has been rather tight-lipped about their autonomous vehicle program “Project Titan”.  Apple has been testing out Lexus SUVs, but there is a chance that they may still develop their own vehicle. Perhaps these poor numbers will allow them to spend more time working on the “Apple Car”.