San Jose, CA

An autonomous car company gets approval to test driverless cars in this Bay Area city.

Golden Gate Media

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A Chinese autonomous vehicle start-up has received approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test driverless cars on certain roads in San Jose.

It is the seventh company to be issued a permit by the DMV to test driverless cars in the state. Other companies to be issued permits include AutoX, Baidu, Cruise, Nuro Waymo, and Zoox.

The state has issued 56 other companies permits to test autonomously driven cars, but with a driver behind the wheel to take over.

The permit comes with some stipulations, primarily to keep Silicon Valley drivers and pedestrians safe.

“While WeRide has had a permit from DMV to test autonomous vehicles with safety drivers since 2017, the new permit allows the company to test two autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel on specified streets within San Jose,” according to the department. “The vehicles are designed to operate on roads with posted speed limits not exceeding 45 miles per hour. Testing will be conducted during the day Monday through Friday, but will not occur in heavy fog or rain.”

As part of the agreement, WeRide will need to notify the city of San Jose of when it plans to conduct driverless car tests, prove that the vehicles have been tested under controlled conditions, and continuously monitor the status of the autonomously driven vehicles.

“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 department added.

WeRide’s vehicles must also 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.”

WeRide recently raised $300 million in funding and is considered to be one of China’s most promising start-ups. The company is headquartered in Guangzhou, but has global offices, including one in Silicon Valley.

“So far, WeRide ONE has been verified extensively in both China and the US,” the company writes on its website. “The company’s autonomously driven vehicles have been undergoing testing and operation in eight cities, accumulating over four million kilometers of actual autonomous driving mileage in the past 3 years. WeRide ONE has gone through critical validation on city expressways and highways, in tunnels, ‘villages in the city’ and CBDs (Central Business District), meeting the needs of different modes of transportation.”

The California DMV adopted rules to allow the testing of autonomously driven vehicles on April 2, 2018.

Silicon Valley is the epicenter of the testing and deployment of autonomously driven vehicles. On Dec. 23, 2020, the DMV issued its first autonomous vehicle deployment permit to Nuro, a driverless delivery service.

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“The deployment permit grants Nuro permission to use a fleet of light-duty driverless vehicles for a commercial delivery service on surface streets within designated parts of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, which includes the cities of Atherton, East Palo Alto, Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Woodside,” the DMV stated at the time. “The vehicles have a maximum speed of 25 mph and are only approved to operate in fair weather conditions on streets with a speed limit of no more than 35 mph.”

“We’re excited to see these benefits grow into the everyday lives of the people in our communities, in the places we also call home,” writes David Estrada, Chief Legal & Policy Officer at Nuro.

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