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Two companies are leaders in autonomous vehicle (AV) investment and plan to begin deploying robotaxi in San Francisco as soon as all permits are available – Waymo and Cruise. This column compares their efforts based on public data available from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A later column will examine additional data from the California Public Services Commission (PUC).

These two California agencies control AV testing activities and essentially control when robotics services are introduced in California. Currently, both Waymo and Cruise have taken many steps toward providing a driverless robotics service in San Francisco.

The following table summarizes the way Waymo and Cruise’s AV efforts are ranked, with a focus on public data available for California.

Waymo is working to test in three cases of AV use: robotaxis, robottrucks and delivery of goods by truck and van. Robotaxi is the leading use case for the Cruise, with the delivery of goods by car, van and small truck being a secondary focus.

A table outlining the differences between the capabilities of Waymo and Cruise AV
Table 1: Comparisons of Waymo and Cruise AV (Source: Egil Juliussen) (Click on image to enlarge)

investors: A total of 12 companies have invested $ 5.5 billion in Waymo, according to Crunchbase, including many VC companies. Alphabet is the parent company of Waymo and is its main investor.

Cruise has 46 investors based on Crunchbase data worth more than $ 15 billion, including debt financing. GM is the parent company and is a leading investor. Honda is also a major investor and will use Cruise AV technology. Microsoft and Walmart have invested in Cruise. As part of Microsoft’s investment, Cruise will use Microsoft Azure’s cloud technology.

OEM partners: Waymo has a diverse group of OEM partners for cars with Nissan, Renault, Stellantis and Volvo. Waymo has Daimler trucks as a partner for its autonomous truck group.

Cruise has two major car manufacturers as partners: GM and Honda. Both companies are working together to develop robotaxis and other AVs. Cruise is not investing in autonomous trucks, but is likely to find partners to supply goods with vans and small trucks.

Goods delivery partners: Waymo works with a number of autonomous truck logistics companies, including AutoNation, CH Robinson, JB Hunt and UPS. Walmart and Safeway are partners in the delivery of goods by minibus and similar vehicles.

Cruise is working with Walmart to deliver goods by car, and vans are likely to be added.

Robotics pilots: Both companies are leaders in robotaxi testing and pilot programs. Waymo was the first company to launch a pilot program for robots in the Chandler area, near Phoenix, in 2018. Most of the robotaxi service is now with driverless AV. Waymo begins testing robots in downtown Phoenix.

Waymo is now expanding testing of robotaxi in San Francisco and is launching a pilot program with safety drivers or “driving” in PUC terminology in California. Waymo is looking at Los Angeles and possibly New York for future robotics tests.

Cruise has focused most of its testing on robotaxi in San Francisco and currently has permits to test with and without a driver in San Francisco. Cruise is also testing its robot axes in the Phoenix area.

Data for California

Table 1 summarizes data from AV testing in California. As of March 2022, Waymo had licenses for 630 driven AVs and 71 driverless AVs. Cruise had licenses for 236 driven AVs and 52 driverless AVs.

From 2015 to 2021, Waymo covered 7.1 million miles in the DMV AV testing program in California. Waymo’s share of all AV miles is 56.3% over the seven-year period. Cruise launched in 2016 and covered 3.06 million AV miles through its six-year testing. Cruise had a share of 24.3% of the total AV miles of all companies testing AV in California.

California PUC began AV testing in 2019 and published quarterly results. The latest data, ending in February 2022, was published in April. Waymo traveled 2.7 million miles from July 2019 to February 2022 and accounted for over 95% of total AV miles. All AV miles on Waymo were from managed AV.

Cruise received its PUC approval for driven AV at the end of 2019 and for driverless AV at the end of 2021. Cruise is now focusing on driverless AV and stopped testing with drivers in San Francisco in December 2021. Cruise had passed its PUC AV alone to a total of 4,700 miles by the end of February 2022.

The results of the AV test in California are the most comprehensive public AV data anywhere. There are seven years of historical data. The following table summarizes by year the Waymo, Cruise and total AV companies involved.

If you need more details, two columns cover the last two years. Data for 2021 are covered in this column; data for 2020 are available in this column.

The following table summarizes AV permits, AV miles traveled, and average miles between separations.

Table Outlining California DMV AV Testing Data for Waymo and Cruise
California DMV AV Test Data (Source: Egil Juliussen) (Click on image to enlarge)

Data available here. Monthly spreadsheet data includes AV testing for one year from December to November of the following year.

Companies with AV mile: The number of AV testing companies in California increased from eight in 2015 to a peak of 48 in 2018. The total number of AV testing companies decreased to 31 in 2020 and 25 in 2021. There are more companies with AV licenses testing, but many do not test every year. Currently, 47 companies have permits to test AV with a driver’s seat safety driver.

AV allows: The total number of AV licenses increased from 71 in 2015 to 1173 in 2021. Waymo had the most AV licenses, except in 2017 and 2018, when Cruise had the most. In 2021, Waymo had 693 AV licenses, or 59% of total licenses. In 2021, Cruise has 138 AV licenses, which is 12% of the total.

AV miles: The total number of AV miles was 451,000 in 2015 and rose to over 2 million miles in 2018 and almost 2.9 million miles in 2019. Then came the pandemic in 2020 and the total number of AV miles fell below 2 million miles. The total number of AV miles has more than doubled in 2021 to nearly 4.1 million miles.

Waymo is the leader in AV miles every year except 2020, when Cruz was the leader. In 2015, Waymo accounted for 94% of total AV miles (424,000 miles). In 2016, Waymo was even more dominant with over 96% of the total miles (635,000 miles). In 2017, Waymo’s AV miles fell to 363,000, probably due to his efforts to begin testing robots in the Phoenix area in 2018. Waymo’s AV miles reached almost 1.3 million miles in 2018 and over 1 , 4 million miles in 2019, through Way2mo. AV miles fell to 628,000, accounting for 31.5% of all AV miles. Waymo came back strong in 2021 with over 2.3 million miles and almost 57% of the total number of AV miles.

The cruise started slowly with less than 10,000 AV miles in 2016, jumping to 130,000 in 2017. The cruise tripled its AV mile in 2018 to 448,000 and nearly doubled in 2019 to 832,000 AV miles. Cruz was the leader in AV miles in 2020 with 770,000 miles, or almost 39% of the total miles. This is due to the fact that Cruise provides extensive supplies of essential goods during the pandemic in San Francisco. Cruise AV miles reached their highest level in 2021 – 876,000, or 21% of the total number of AV miles.

Cumulative AV miles: This section adds cumulative miles per year. Total DMV miles in California exceeded 1.1 million miles in 2016 and exceeded 3.6 million in 2018. Strong growth continued in 2019 to over 6.5 million and 8.5 million in 2020. Cumulative AV miles exceeded 12.6 million in 2021

Waymo is the leader in the accumulation of AV miles each year and represents at least 56% of the total number of AV miles each year. Waymo’s cumulative share of AV miles decreased from over 95% in 2015 and 2016 to 63.5% in 2019. In 2021, Waymo’s cumulative AV miles exceeded 7.1 million, with a share of 56.3% of the total number of miles.

Cruise is now a strong second-largest AV milestone, surpassing 1.4 million miles in 2019 and reaching 3.06 million miles in 2021, with a share of 24.3%.

AV miles of split: The shutdown is when the safety driver takes control of the AV. This can happen if the AV driver transfers control of the driver to safety. Or the safety driver takes control if the software driver does not seem to be able to handle the driving situation in the short term.

Average mileage miles are a measure of software driver competence. The more miles of separation, the better the capabilities of the software driver. This is the only measurement that is publicly available, but much more data is needed to evaluate a software driver platform.

Waymo and Cruise have much higher separation miles than the total for all AV participants. Between 2015 and 2017, total separation miles ranged from 163 to 259, while Waymo grew from 1,254 miles in 2015 to 5,596 in 2017. The cruise reached 1,236 miles in 2017.

In 2018, Apple and Uber had extremely high splits, with 97% of all splits, but less than 3% of AV miles. With Apple and Uber included, the total mileage was just 14. With the exception of Apple and Uber, they give 477 miles. Total mileage decreased to 308 in 2019, but rose sharply in 2020. Perhaps the 2020 pandemic with less traffic made it easier for software drivers to drive.

In 2021, the total number of miles of separation jumped by almost 3 times and reached 1571 AV miles between separations. This improvement is probably due to fewer AV testing companies and only one newcomer, Apollo, who had extensive experience in AV testing in China.

Waymo’s splitting miles grew strongly from 1,254 in 2015 to nearly 30,000 in 2020. Then came 2021, when separation miles fell to below 8,000. This may be due in part to increased AV testing in San Francisco, but it’s still unclear why there was such a big drop.

This gives Cruise an advantage over Waymo in 2021 with over 41,700 miles of separation – from 28,500 in 2020. Cruise has been doing its AV tests in San Francisco since 2016.

Concluding remarks

The annual AV testing data from the California DMV is one of the few sources of public data and has the most historical information. This makes it an important source for analyzing the state of AV in the United States

Clearly, Waymo and Cruise are leaders in AV testing in California. They are leading in the AV used, the AV miles traveled and in obtaining permits for testing robotaxi pilots.

Both Waymo and Cruise are eager to get started with the paid driverless robotics service in San Francisco. The next column will look at California PUC data and other information about Waymo and Cruise.


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