Quite a number of companies — 53, to be exact — have received permits to test self-driving cars with a safety driver in California. One of the more notable companies that has received such a permit is China-based Didi Chuxing, which officially opened its U.S.-based research lab last March.
Also on the list of permit holders is Udacity, which partnered with Didi last year to host a contest for the development of an Automated Safety and Awareness Processing Stack.
In April, the California Department of Motor Vehicles introduced some new regulations and permit application processes for self-driving car companies. The new system entails three autonomous vehicle permit options: testing with a driver, driverless testing and deployment. Most of the new elements of the regulations are around driverless testing and deployment.
For example, in order to conduct driverless testing, companies must have previously tested the vehicles in controlled conditions. The vehicles must also, among many other things, meet the definition of an SAE Level 4 or 5 vehicle. With deployment, companies need to ensure cars can detect and respond to roadway situations, meet best practices to detect cyberattacks and more.
Another notable permit holder is Apple, which in January expanded its fleet to include 27 cars. Missing from the list, unsurprisingly, is Didi rival Uber.
Last week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said Uber will bring back its self-driving cars “within the next few months, I don’t know.”
To be fair, Khosrowshahi didn’t sound 100 percent confident in his answer. That’s just to say I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes Uber longer than a few months. He went on to say that when Uber does bring its cars back on the road, “it’s going to be in as safe of a way as possible.”
Uber pulled its self-driving cars off the roads following a fatal crash in March. Later that month, Uber decided not to reapply for a self-driving car testing permit in California. Uber’s previous permit expired March 31.
If Uber wants to continue its tests in California, it will need to apply for a new permit, as well as “address any follow-up analysis or investigations from the recent crash in Arizona,” DMV Deputy Director/Chief Counsel Brian Soublet wrote in a letter to Uber in March. Uber may also need to set up a meeting with the DMV.
I’ve reached out to Didi to learn more about its plans for self-driving cars in California and will update this story if I hear back.