Baidu gets approval to test self-driving cars in California

Baidu received an Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit from the California DMV, the company revealed today. This paves the way for Baidu USA to begin testing its self-driving car technologies on public roads in California, which it says it will do soon. The Baidu autonomous driving research team in the U.S. was announced earlier this year, saying it was targeting reaching a 100-person research team in Silicon Valley.

Baidu also recently invested with Ford a total of $150 million in Velodyne, a supplier of key LiDAR components used in autonomous driving systems. The investment was designed to help improve the cost and yield of LiDAR components, which are currently expensive to make at scale, in the volumes you’d need for a proper production launch of self-driving vehicles.

While Baidu does say that it’s going to “start testing… autonomous driving technologies on public roads very soon in California,” according to a statement by Baidu SVP Jing Wang, it doesn’t say how far it’s progressed in its Silicon Valley recruitment drive, but getting permission to start road testing in California should help its efforts overall.

Baidu will still face the same requirements as other companies testing autonomous driving vehicles in the state, which currently means there must be a driver and driving controls present in the testing cars.