Autonomous Vehicle Companies Doubled Their Testing Miles In California Last Year

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Waymo's autonomously driven Jaguar I-PACE electric SUV.
Courtesy of Waymo
While the number of self-driving car companies testing vehicles on California roads decreased last year, those that are trying out new autonomous driving technologies—like Waymo and Cruise—nearly doubled their testing miles, according to a new report from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

According to the DMV, autonomous vehicles (AVs) traveled a record 4.1 test million miles from December 2020 through November 2021, double the roughly 2 million miles driven in the year-earlier period. The sharp increase came despite a drop in the number of companies that held autonomous testing permits; 50 companies currently hold permits to test self-driving cars with a driver behind the wheel, down from 58 in 2020. Meanwhile, only seven companies have a permit for completely driverless testing.

As TechCrunch noted Thursday, Google’s Waymo division led the AV testing charge last year, nearly quadrupling its testing miles year-on-year to 2.3 million miles in 2021. San Francisco-based Cruise, which is owned by General Motors, ranked second with more than 882,000 testing miles, and was followed by Silicon Valley AV startup Pony.ai (nearly 306,000 miles) and Amazon subsidiary Zoox (more than 155,000 miles). More established names like Tesla, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Honda are also among those conducting autonomous driving tests.

The California DMV also tracks disengagements data, which records when an AV operator has to turn off a car’s autonomous driving function and take control of the vehicle manually during a test. Along with significantly ramping up its driving miles, Waymo also saw a spike in its number of disengagements—reporting 292 in the year through November 2021, compared to only 21 a year earlier.

Among those testing AVs on California roads is Motional, a Boston-based startup backed by Hyundai that is expanding its presence in Los Angeles.

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