25 Feb 2024

IDTechEx: Best self-driving cars already safer than average human driver

A new industry report by Cambridge-based independent market research provider, IDTechEx, claims that “Autonomous vehicles will soon be safer than humans, some already are”.

Released in September 2023, the “Autonomous Cars, Robotaxis & Sensors 2024-2044” report was authored by Dr James Jeffs, Senior Technology Analyst at IDTechEx.

The most interesting aspect of the research is the key metric that IDTechEx uses to monitor autonomous vehicle safety: miles per disengagement.

First, it sets out the testing miles submitted by the top testing companies – including Waymo, Cruise, Pony AI, Zoox and Nuro – in California between 2015 and 2022.

It then analyses how frequently the AV safety driver needed to intervene with the autonomous system.
In 2022, Cruise led when it came to disengagement. During its 863,000 miles of testing, safety drivers only needed to intervene nine times. What’s more, IDTechEx concluded that four of these nine disengagements were caused by the poor performance of other nearby drivers.

The study then applies a slightly spurious method – assuming that each disengagement would lead to a collision… and compares this to the average US human driver performance of approx. 200,000 miles between collisions – in order to justify the ‘some AVs are already better than humans’ claim.

It isn’t an exact science, but the important point stands. Self-driving cars are getting safer year-on-year.