It’s no secret General Motors wants to lead the self-driving-car revolution, but its closest rival, Waymo, has often been the uncontested leader. That’s starting to change.
Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that GM Cruise self-driving cars are quickly catching up to Waymo. New data from an annual California report that details safety and other metrics in self-driving cars shows major improvements from GM, specifically in how often the human backup driver had to disengage the system.
GM self-driving vehicles had to disengage 0.8 times per 1,000 miles, a vast improvement over the 18 times per 1,000 miles the year prior. However, Waymo sunk even lower to 0.18 times per 1,000 miles. These figures don’t include millions of simulated miles, where the self-driving cars can “practice” events they occurred in the real world. Nor do they include testing outside of California.
Prior to the report’s release, Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt said GM’s self-driving cars regularly encounter “absurd” scenarios in dense urban environments. Cruise tests its cars primarily in San Francisco, and Vogt argued it gives the company an upper hand compared to rivals testing in suburban areas.
It hasn’t been all positive for GM, however. Last year, a self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV was involved in a motorcycle wreck as it attempted to navigate a three-lane, one-way road. The police report found the motorcyclist at fault for the crash, but the rider has since sued GM and argued the self-driving car caused the wreck as it moved back into its original lane to avoid rear-ending another car.
GM has plans to roll out a commercial service for its self-driving cars in 2019 and recently showed the Cruise AV, the first production-intent self-driving car without driver controls.