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Google’s Waymo to start testing self-driving minivans this year

Vehicles tested in California by Waymo saw big drop in disengagements.

By CBR Staff Writer

Waymo is advancing its self-driving technology at a steady pace as the company experienced fewer disengagements last year, compared to 2015.

Disengagements take place when the human drivers inside the car are forced to take back control of a self-driving car to prevent an accident or respond to technical issues.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik unveiled the data during a speech at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

In 2015, Alphabet reported just 341 disengagements during 424,331 autonomous miles driven in California.

There were 0.8 disengagements for every one thousand miles. In 2016, that number went down to 0.2.

Krafcik was quoted by Bloomberg as saying, “As our software and hardware becomes more robust through our testing, we’re driving this number down further.”

Google has been developing autonomous vehicle technology since 2009 as part of its X research lab. Various rivals have entered the field since then.

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Five of the six other firms that have permits to test autonomous vehicles in California reported worse disengagement rates in 2015, when compared to Alphabet.

Volkswagen was closer to Alphabet, with a rate of 17.4 disengagements per thousand miles. Tesla Motors did not unveil the figures.

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles is planning to report 2016 disengagement numbers in the coming weeks from other companies that are engaged in testing autonomous vehicles in the state.

In his speech, Krafcik said Waymo will start testing self-driving minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles this year in Arizona and California.

Waymo has so far accumulated over 2.5 million miles of automated driving in California and Arizona. The company plans to cross three million mark by May this year.

The company stated on its website that it continues to test and learn on real city streets across four locations in the US and plan to bring fully self-driving cars to the world soon.

Uber Technologies is also undertaking autonomous tests in Arizona, which does not require disengagement reports.

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