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Tesla is now testing autonomous vehicles on public California roads

Unlike Uber, it appears Tesla followed all the rules before getting started.

2016 Tesla Model S 60
Emme Hall/Roadshow

Tesla's dedication to developing autonomous vehicles is not new. But what is new is the fact that it's now testing autonomous vehicles on public roads in California.

Tesla started testing four autonomous cars on California roads toward the end of 2016, Bloomberg reports. The news came by way of a series of reports released by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which requires companies to send "disengagement" events to the DMV during the course of self-driving-car testing.

Tesla released a video in late 2016, showing what its self-driving hardware "sees" on the road.


"Disengagement" refers to a situation where the autonomous vehicle required a human operator to step in and take control of the vehicle. Over the course of 550 driverless miles, Tesla reported 182 disengagements, or about one disengagement per 3 autonomous miles driven.

The report, which the public can read here, noted that there were "no emergencies, accidents or collisions" during testing. The list of disengagements includes the VIN of the autonomous vehicle, the date and cause of disengagement, the weather, road class and even the time it took for the driver to resume control. Most times, the driver took control within 1 second, although Tesla noted that longer times might be attributed to being on straight roads or driving at low speeds with no local traffic.

Other automakers that submitted disengagement reports include BMW, Bosch, Cruise Automation (as part of GM), Delphi, Ford, Honda, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Waymo.

While the data isn't much use in a bubble, comparing Tesla's efforts with those of more established autonomous developers shows that the electric automaker still has a ways to go. For example, Waymo (formerly known as Google's self-driving division) logged just 124 disengagements (PDF) over 635,868 autonomous miles driven, an average of one disengagement every 5,000 driverless miles.