Anecdotes don’t really tell us if Waymo is struggling

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Waymo may appear to be struggling with some of the most basic vehicle operations, but the little data that there is still suggests that it is miles ahead of the competition.

A report from The Information cites anecdotal observations that Waymo vehicles have had trouble making left turns at intersections and that local residents are often complaining about sudden stops or moves being made by its vehicles.

It is important to note that all of these reports are anecdotal and in no way represent hard data. When data is collected in large enough volume, a trend or trait can be determined but, in every case, there are always going to be exceptions and data points that contradict what the majority of what the data is indicating.

In this case, there is no way to know whether these complaints represent reality or whether they are merely exceptions to what is normally occurring. Hence, one can put no weight on any of these claims other than to begin asking questions.

These questions will include:

  1. How many disengagements per mile are occurring in Arizona, and why are they different to California?
  2. Are specific types of disengagements occurring more frequently than others and why?

The data that is available indicates that Waymo remains far ahead of the No. 2 player, Cruise, although in the last 12 months this gap has closed from 8 to 1 to 5 to 1. Hence, I remain very comfortable with my opinion: whatever issues Waymo is having, everybody else is experiencing them to a much greater degree.

RFM research indicates that Uber is still really struggling with its autonomous driving software which is a critical problem as, in an autonomous world, this will become a huge part of its product. Uber is currently a marketplace, but when drivers are removed from the equation, it becomes a service where the quality of its offering becomes of paramount importance. This is why it has to get this right or face losing out to the other players. Here, Lyft has a big advantage thanks to its partnership with Waymo and Google’s financial backing.

Despite these problems, I still think that the technology for autonomous driving will be ready long before the market is ready to receive it. This will mean that the laggards will have time to catch up with Waymo and Cruise (the leaders) and that vehicle makers will have plenty of options to choose from when they finally need to have an autonomous solution for their vehicles.

I think that vehicle makers have far more pressing problems than autonomous driving to deal with as RFM research has found that electrification could cause vehicle demand to decline by 44%. I very much doubt that the industry would survive this in its current form, meaning that massive consolidation and a focus on digital services will be needed.

When it comes to this, I see BMW and Tesla out front, but both still have substantial issues that make me very nervous. The automotive industry look like it has tough times ahead of it and I would be nervous about an exposure to it.

This article was originally published at RadioFreeMobile

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