Apple’s self-driving cars not very good at self driving
During testing, Apple’s self-driving test vehicles need to be disengaged almost every mile, compared to once every 11,017 miles for Waymo and once every 5,205 miles for Cruise. The numbers were disclosed in an annual report to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, writes Bloomberg.
The report only applies to miles driven in the state of California. Other states where self-driving cars are being tested, like Arizona and Florida, do not disclose similar data.
Apple has started work on self-driving technology many years after Google parent company Alphabet with its Waymo division and GM with its self-driving subsidiary Cruise. The smartphone maker has declined to respond to Bloomberg but it has previously criticised the California disclosure requirement and suggested including metrics like successfully prevented crashes. Other companies that are testing self-driving vehicles on California’s roads have argued there is a huge difference between miles driven on sunny freeways and miles driven in city traffic or in snowy conditions.
In spite of these numbers, Apple’s self-driving cars have not been involved in serious crashes. Uber’s self-driving tests were suspended after one of its vehicles killed a pedestrian in Arizona last year.
At the start of Apple’s Project Titan in 2015, the company’s ambition was to develop a Tesla-competitor capable of autonomous driving. Later, those ambitions were scaled back to developing self-driving technology that can be used in other vehicles.
Earlier this year, Apple laid off 200 employees in its self-driving project. Bloomberg reports the company still has about 1,200 people working on the technology.
In November 2018, a Guinness Record attempt in China illustrated the challenges faced by self-driving technology companies (pictured below). 56 identical self-driving cars took part in a parade at the Dianjiang test site in Chongqing, China. The red SUVs covered the two-mile course in just over 9 minutes at a speed of 30km/h. In spite of these controlled conditions and low speed, one vehicle was disqualified when the safety driver had to intervene. Nevertheless, 55 cars was still enough to qualify for a Guinness Record.