Chinese autonomous driving start-up AutoX has won a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to start testing driverless cars in designated areas in San Jose, California – the first Chinese company to win such approval.
While AutoX has had state authority to test autonomous vehicles with safety drivers since 2017, the new permit allows the company to test one autonomous vehicle without a driver behind the wheel on specified streets around its San Jose headquarters, according to a release issued by the California DMV on Friday.
AutoX is the third company to win such a driverless permit from the California DMV, after Google-backed Waymo and California-based Nuro. The permit will allow AutoX to carry out tests of self-driving cars with passengers on board at a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour.
“We objectively reached the Level-4 autonomous driving technology, and passed the same strict regulatory approval (process) as Google’s Waymo,” said Professor Xiao Jianxiong, founder and CEO of Alibaba-backed AutoX, in a statement at the weekend. “Therefore we can responsibly remove safety drivers … it requires strong technical support.”
The AutoX autonomous vehicles subject to the tests must ensure safety for passengers on board, pedestrians, and be able to respond properly to traffic situations such as road repairs, being stopped by police, and giving right-of-way to firefighting vehicles in an emergency.
Silicon Valley in the state of California is deemed as the official birthplace of driverless technology and a number of Chinese autonomous driving companies such as Baidu Apollo, Poni.ai, Didi Chuxing, AutoX, WeRide, and self-driving truck start-up TuSimple have been scrambling to conduct tests there.
Driverless technology companies clocked up 2.85 million miles there in 2019, an increase of more than 800,000 miles from 2018, according to data from the California DMV.
Founded in 2016 by Xiao Jianxiong, also known as “Professor X”, with a vision to make driverless technology universally accessible, AutoX this year rolled out free robotaxi services in Jiading, a district in the northwestern part of Shanghai. AutoX also said that it won a permit last week from Wuhan to run robotaxis in a geofenced area of the city, which has been hammered by the Covid-19 pandemic.