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California DMV authorizes Baidu to test driverless vehicles in Sunnyvale

The California Department of Motor Vehicles issued a permit to Baidu USA LLC, authorizing the company to test driverless vehicles on public roads in Sunnyvale.

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.

The vehicles are designed to operate on roads with posted speed limits not exceeding 45 miles per hour. Tests may be conducted during all times of the day and night, but will not occur during heavy fog or heavy rain.

Baidu is the sixth company to receive a driverless testing permit in the state. Currently, 58 companies have an active permit to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver.

In order to receive a driverless testing permit, manufacturers must certify they meet a number of safety, insurance and vehicle registration requirements, including:

  • 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.

Under state law established in 2012, the DMV is required to adopt regulations covering both the testing and public use of autonomous vehicles on California roadways. Regulations to allow testing with a safety driver behind the wheel took effect on 16 September 2014. Rules to allow testing without a driver and deployment of autonomous vehicles were subsequently adopted and took effect on 2 April 2018. Regulations allowing for light-duty autonomous delivery vehicles weighing less than 10,001 pounds were approved on 16 December 2019.


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