A Clean Mile Challenge

Robert Grant
Published in
3 min readFeb 9, 2021


Cruise’s 100% all-electric AV fleet

Today, the California DMV published the 2020 Disengagement Reports for the AV industry. Once again we are very proud of our progress, as our rate dropped to half of what it was in 2019. For all of 2020, we averaged only one reportable disengagement per 28,520 miles. For the second half of 2020, we improved to more than 60,000 miles between reportable disengagement. And in the final three months of the year, we had zero reportable disengagements, a 10x improvement over the same period a year before.

At the heart of these reports is one very simple stat — the total autonomous miles driven by self-driving cars. In our case, Cruise drove 770,049 miles in California in 2020. And while the old adage says, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage,” last year was definitely an exception to the rule. It’s simply impossible to tell the story of those miles without the context of the unprecedented year during which they were driven.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the health, economic, and political crises it unleashed changed everything. Unemployment skyrocketed. Small businesses shuttered. The number of Californians facing hunger doubled. Twice as many SF households faced food insecurity (which is why we deployed our fleet to deliver hundreds of thousands of meals to those in need).

And the pandemic wasn’t even all of it.

Wildfires burned over 4% of California — the worst season in our state’s history. The skies turned orange as fires burned from San Diego to the Canadian border — more unequivocal evidence of climate change, driven in large part by carbon-powered transportation.

For us, it put a spotlight on our cars, our mission, and the potential impact of our business. It reinforced our early and total commitment to zero-emission vehicles. And as we reported our disengagements to the DMV, we realized there were other metrics just as important.

In 2020, Cruise drove 770,049 autonomous miles in California, of which:

Putting that into perspective, transportation is responsible for over 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. Rough calculations show that the AV industry drove a collective 1.99 million miles in 2020.Based on reported fleet composition, 995,600 of those AV miles were driven in gas-powered and hybrid cars, and 959,600 were in EVs — 80% of which were by Cruise.

We should not be okay with these numbers for our industry.

It’s not like this was the first year that climate change and the impact of carbon-based transportation erupted in fire and smoke. So why is the rest of industry still relying on gasoline? If everyone had committed to all-electric, all-renewable fleets, we could have meaningfully reduced this carbon footprint by now.

The AV industry tends to make a lot of promises, speaking aspirationally about the transformational benefits of AVs as a vision or future state. In the meantime, more than 60 AV companies are actively testing and reporting their miles to the DMV. Cruise believes that every one of them has the responsibility to publicly share the impact of those miles on our communities and the environment.

It starts with clean miles, which we’d like to challenge our industry to report every year along with disengagements.

We have no doubt that every AV developer is likely implementing at least some incremental changes as they progress, making each mile a little greener. But our real collective power lies in the industry’s potential commitment to going all-electric, right now.

If we’re serious about bringing positive change to the world, we can’t wait until some magical date when every fleet is deployed at scale. We need to make positive changes now, and that starts with the decisions we make about how we operate today, not tomorrow.



Robert Grant
Writer for

Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Social Impact