No company has the self-driving car arena cornered like Google.
For one thing, Google has been at this for a while. Its self-driving car project launched in 2009, and the company is savvy about sharing its work with the public. They’ve been unusually transparent (up to a point)—releasing monthly accident reports, publishing blog posts about how the project has changed over time, and routinely participating in interviews with reporters.
At the same time, many other companies have touted their own work building driverless vehicles, and until these cars actually appear in showrooms, the race to bring self-driving vehicles to the masses is anyone’s game. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, told Fortune earlier this year that he expects Tesla to have fully autonomous cars ready for market by 2018. That would be a full two years ahead of Google’s already-ambitious target date of 2020 for getting its self-driving vehicles to consumers.
But a review of data I obtained from the California Department of Motor Vehicles suggests Tesla really isn’t poised to catch up to Google’s test-driving record, ostensibly a key component of readying autonomous vehicles for consumers. In fact, a closer look at the 11 manufacturers with test permits for self-driving cars in California only reinforces Google’s leadership in the realm of autonomous driving. (Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment this morning.)