Autonomous vehicles have been making headlines for some time and it’s no surprise as more companies are investing heavily in this technology. WeRide, a Nissan-backed Chinese autonomous vehicle start-up, is one of many working on SAE Level 4 autonomous driving for commercial deployment at scale. The company recently raised $310 million and after receiving the appropriate permits, they are preparing to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in San Jose, California.
The Future Of Testing Autonomous Vehicles
In the early days of developing autonomous vehicles, testing permits required a human safety driver to stay behind the wheel. There are currently 56 companies with an active permit to test self-driving cars with a person behind the wheel. Fact is, WeRide has had a permit to test autonomous vehicles with safety drivers behind the wheel since 2017.
However, granting this new permit without someone in the driving seat is a major milestone for the industry itself. And, it’s a requirement for any company that wants to launch a commercial robotaxi or delivery service in the state. According to California DMV, the agency that regulates autonomous vehicle testing in the state, the permit for WeRide allows them to test two autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel but only on certain streets within San Jose.
There are also restrictions on how and when WeRide can test these self-driving cars that are designed to only operate on roads with posted speed limits not exceeding 45 miles per hour (+- 70 km/h). Testing can only occur between Monday and Friday but not in heavy fog or rain.
Backed by the Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi alliance, WeRide is also testing its driverless cars in China’s southern city of Guangzhou, where the company’s global headquarters is located.
Autonomous Vehicles: The Future Of Mobility
The last two years have proved pivotal with many important achievements across the disruptive dimensions of mobility. This includes autonomous driving, connectivity, electrification and shared mobility (ACES). Uber and Lyft are two of the biggest disruptors in the ride-hailing space and they went public in 2019. That year also saw regulators starting to approve drone deliveries and electric vertical takeoff and landing craft.
Investors, executives and motoring enthusiasts see autonomous technology and self-driving cars as one of the most interesting areas within the future-of-mobility space. Car manufacturers and technology companies are investing billions in autonomous driving intending to take an early lead in what many consider the future of mobility. This trend is not changing any time soon and it’s certainly poised for exciting possibilities.
Other companies that can test autonomous vehicles with no safety driver in California include Alphabet’s Waymo, General Motors’ majority-owned Cruise, and two Chinese companies, Baidu and Alibaba-backed AutoX.
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