SACRAMENTO — The street race to develop and test autonomous vehicles ramped up this week when the California Department of Motor Vehicles granted Apple Inc. a license to test three driverless SUVs on state roads.
Apple, long secretive about its interest and activity in the autonomous vehicle space, isn’t talking about what it plans for the three Lexus RX450h models and six drivers now permitted by the DMV.
In comments responding to guidance for driverless cars released by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s in November, Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, said the company is “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”
Apple’s formal entry into the testing space follows news that Uber Technologies Inc.’s UATC recently added four more Volvo XC90s to its testing permit in California. The addition brings Uber’s autonomous vehicle fleet to 15, just one car shy of the 16 it was testing late last year when, in a tiff over permitting requirements with state regulators, the company temporarily stopped operating its driverless cars in the state and moved the program to Arizona.
Here’s the leaderboard for the number of cars the state DMV has approved:
►Google Auto: 79
►GM Cruise: 27
►Tesla Motors: 24
►Uber UATC: 15
Also this week, Gov. Jerry Brown’s Business and Economic Development Office granted GM Cruise $8 million in tax credits to expand its San Francisco-based research and development into autonomous and zero-emission vehicles.
“Self-driving technology holds enormous benefits to society in the form of increased safety and access to transportation,” General Motors chief executive Mary Barra said in a statement. “Running our autonomous vehicle program as a start-up is giving us the speed we need to continue to stay at the forefront of development of these technologies and the market applications.”
California last month posted its latest proposed regulations for testing and deploying autonomous cars. The public comment period concludes April 24, and the DMV has scheduled a public hearing on the rules for the following day.
The Golden State is now home to 30 companies and 202 autonomous vehicles permitted for testing. Below, we’ve posted test-permit data from the state DMV as of April 11.
- California Opens Door to Fully Autonomous Vehicle Testing
- Calif. Lawmaker Pushes Zero-Emission Driverless Vehicles
- Insurance Carriers Say Driverless Car Data Is Key to Rates
- Feds Outline Plans to Regulate Autonomous Cars
- NHTSA Official Urges House Committee to Stay the Course in Driverless Rulemaking