By Mark Gurman
Apple Inc.’s autonomous test vehicles are relying on significantly more human intervention than Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo or General Motors Co.’s Cruise cars, an indication the iPhone maker may lag well behind on the technology.
Test drivers disengaged the autonomous mode on Apple’s cars once almost every mile, based on data the company disclosed in an annual report to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Waymo’s cars went about 11,017 miles between disengagements, and Cruise’s went 5,205 miles.
The California reports, which measure how many times human safety drivers take back control or interfere with self-driving systems, are both rare and incomplete snapshots of how companies’ autonomous cars are coming along. Other states, including Arizona and Florida, have lured automakers, tech giants and startups to test elsewhere in part by refraining from disclosure requirements.
Waymo's autonomous test vehicles drive much further without humans
Although access to data on the safety of test vehicles is key for the public to accept the technology, Apple told the DMVin April 2017 that its reporting requirements “do not achieve this result.” It suggested including metrics such as successfully prevented crashes. Companies that report to California also have made the argument that not all miles they test drive are comparable -- highway driving on sunny freeways is much easier than navigating city traffic or snowy mountain passes.
While Apple’s results suggest the company may be a straggler, its self-driving cars haven’t been involved in significant reported accidents. The cars have been involved in minor collisions that were determined to be the fault of other vehicles. Uber Technologies Inc. suspended autonomous testing for much of last year after one of its vehicles killed a pedestrian in Arizona last March.