February 14, 2019 11:30 AM, EST

GM Cruise Falls Short of Self-Driving Test Miles Projection

GMDavid Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

In late 2017, the co-founder of General Motors Co.’s self-driving unit told investors the company was on the verge of putting 1 million miles a month on its autonomous test cars.

That projection proved to be quite a stretch. GM Cruise logged less than 450,000 miles all of last year in California, according to a report released Feb. 13. While Cruise has self-driving Chevrolet Bolts on the road in other states, the bulk of its testing is done in California.

The mileage prediction was made 14 months ago by Kyle Vogt, who was then Cruise’s CEO. In January, former GM President Dan Ammann took over that position and Vogt became chief technology officer.

In retrospect, the amount of driving Vogt described seems wildly ambitious. Even Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo unit, which has autonomous vehicles on public roads in Arizona, only tested 1.2 million miles in California all of last year. While Cruise was founded in 2013, Waymo will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.

The good news for GM: Cruise has significantly increased the number of miles its vehicles are driving in autonomous mode without needing human intervention. The 5,205 miles logged between disengagements last year was second only to Waymo.

A Cruise spokesman said the company is focusing on the quality of test miles and has been putting its cars through tougher driving conditions to improve its technology.

GM is planning to operate a ride-sharing program with the public later this year using Cruise’s self-driving cars. During an investor presentation in January, CEO Mary Barra said the plan remains on schedule.

The automaker also indicated publicly for the first time this month that it eventually may spin off Cruise. It disclosed an incentive package for Ammann that pays out millions if he arranges a sales or initial public offering.