While Tesla allows any old random driver to act as a human beta tester for its "full self driving" (whatever that even means anymore), the California Department of Motor Vehicles has officially issued an actual permit to Baidu USA to begin testing driverless vehicles on public roads in Sunnyvale, California.
The agency made the announcement in a press release issued on Wednesday, stating that "while Baidu has had state authority to test autonomous vehicles with safety drivers since 2016, the new permit allows the company to test three autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel on specified streets within Sunnyvale, located in Santa Clara County."
According to the release, Baidu's vehicles "are designed to operate on roads with posted speed limits not exceeding 45 miles per hour." Testing is allowed to be done at all times during day and night, but won't take place during "heavy fog or rain".
The release also notes what companies need in order to qualify for such driverless testing permits.
- Providing evidence of insurance or a bond equal to $5 million.
- Verifying 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, and is a SAE Level 4 or 5 vehicle.
- Confirming vehicles have been tested under controlled conditions that simulate the planned area of operation.
- Notifying local governments of planned testing in the area.
- Developing a Law Enforcement Interaction Plan that provides information to law enforcement and other first responders on how to interact with test vehicles.
- Continuously monitoring the status of test vehicles.
- Training remote operators on the technology being tested.
"Driverless testing permit holders must also report to the DMV any collisions involving a driverless test vehicle within 10 days and submit an annual report of disengagements," the release states. According to the DMV site, as of January 27, 2021, they have issued Autonomous Vehicle Driverless Testing Permits to just six entities. Noticeably, Tesla is absent from the list, which includes Autox Technologies, Baidu, Cruise, Nuro, Waymo and Zoox.
The CA Department of Motor Vehicles developed its Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program in 2014 "to allow manufacturers to test autonomous vehicles with a human in the driver seat." In 2018, the agency established the Autonomous Vehicle Driverless Tester Program for manufacturers to test their technology without a driver.