AutoX has obtained a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to test a self-driving vehicle without a human driver behind the wheel, becoming the first Chinese company to receive such a driverless testing permit in the U.S. state. The permit allows the Alibaba-backed self-driving startup to test its autonomous vehicle on designated streets in San Jose, AutoX said in a statement on Saturday. The car is allowed to run under fair weather conditions and light precipitation with a speed of up to 45 miles per hour. In order to qualify for a driverless testing permit, companies must provide proof of insurance or a bond equal to $5 million, verify the vehicles are capable of operating without a driver, meet federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or have an exemption from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to DMV. AutoX founder and CEO Xiao Jianxiong hailed the DMV permit as recognition of his company's autonomous driving expertise, which he said has reached "Level 4" autonomy, which allows a vehicle to run almost completely independent of human intervention.
Cruise, the autonomous vehicle subsidiary of GM that also has backing from SoftBank Vision Fund, Microsoft and Honda, has secured a permit that will allow the company to shuttle passengers in its test vehicles without a human safety operator behind the wheel. The permit, issued by the California Public Utilities Commission as part of its driverless pilot program, is one of several regulatory requirements autonomous vehicle companies must meet before they can deploy commercially. This permit is important -- and Cruise is the first to land this particular one -- but it does not allow the company to charge passengers for any rides in test AVs. "In order to launch a commercial service for passengers here in the state of California, you need both the California DMV and the California PUC to issue deployment permits. Today we are honored to have been the first to receive a driverless autonomous service permit to test transporting passengers from the California PUC," Prashanthi Raman, Cruise's director of Government Affairs said in an emailed statement to TechCrunch.
Uber pulled its self-driving cars from California roads on Wednesday after state regulators moved to revoke their registrations, officials said. The decision came after a week of talks between the ride-sharing company and state regulators failed. The DMV said the registrations for the vehicles were improperly issued for because they were not properly marked as test vehicles. It invited Uber to seek a permit so their vehicles could operate legally in California -- an offer the company said it did not plan to accept. The controversy started when Uber launched the service in its hometown of San Francisco.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued GM's Cruise the permit needed to be able to give passengers a ride without a driver behind the wheel. It's the first time (PDF) the commission has issued a permit of this kind, and it's a significant milestone for the CPUC's Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service Pilot Programs. Waymo and Cruise's other rivals already have "drivered" permits from the regulator, but they also have to secure this "driverless" permit to enable fully autonomous rides with passengers onboard. That said, Cruise can't start charging customers just yet. As Prashanthi Raman, Cruise's director of Government Affairs, explained to TechCrunch: "In order to launch a commercial service for passengers here in the state of California, you need both the California DMV and the California PUC to issue deployment permits. Today we are honored to have been the first to receive a driverless autonomous service permit to test transporting passengers from the California PUC."
Uber says it won't comply with a California Department of Motor Vehicles demand that it get a permit to test its self-driving cars in San Francisco. The DMV on Wednesday sent the company a cease-and-desist letter saying it must stop its self-driving car tests in the state. But on Friday Uber revved its engines, saying it would continue testing despite the DMV's stance. Uber's position is that the semi-autonomous car system it is testing here is really no different from current advanced driver assistance systems available now for owners of Teslas and other cars that help with parking and collision avoidance. In that light, Uber doesn't believe it needs a permit because what it's working on doesn't meet the DMV requirements for a truly autonomous vehicle, which would be one that drives without the active, physical control or monitoring of a human being.