Autonomous-car firms in no rush to get unmanned vehicles onto California roads

California said earlier this year that it was preparing to allow autonomous-car companies to test their vehicles on the state’s roads without a safety driver behind the wheel.

That was before a self-driving Uber car with a safety driver knocked down and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, and also before an incident in California that saw a Tesla car crash while in semi-autonomous mode, resulting in the death of the driver.

Despite these recent tragedies, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is pressing ahead with its plan, and from April 2 gave the go-ahead for autonomous-car tests on public roads, without the need of a safety driver.

But only one of around 50 companies currently testing their cars in the state has so far applied for a permit that will allow it to send out an unmanned vehicle, according to Gizmodo. And the DMV hasn’t yet assessed the application.

In light of recent events, it’s little surprise that companies such as Waymo, Lyft, Ford, BMW, Nissan, and Honda — all of which are testing autonomous cars in California — are in no rush to get their applications in. Or it might be that they’re simply not ready to take such a step, regardless of the accidents involving Uber and Tesla.

California’s move to allow empty self-driving vehicles on its roads demonstrates the state’s determination to be at the forefront of autonomous-car development in the U.S. While many states now allow some form of testing on their public roads, Arizona is the only other state to allow autonomous-car tests without a safety driver, with Waymo recently posting a video showing passenger reactions as they took a ride in one of its cars in Phoenix.

In a document viewable online, California’s DMV sets out the requirements that need to be met for companies to secure one of the new permits. They include the need for a constant communication link between the vehicle and a “remote operator” that provides real-time data on the car’s location and status, as well as the submission of a “law enforcement interaction plan” detailing how the company will deal with first responders in the event of an incident involving one of its driverless vehicles.

If and when companies do get around to applying for a permit, they’ll have to pay $3,600 to process the application, which allows up to 10 driverless autonomous test vehicles to hit the streets.

The recent high-profile accidents involving Uber and Tesla are a serious setback for the autonomous-car industry as it seeks to win the hearts and minds of a skeptical public. Waymo, for one, is making efforts to explain the technology to the public.


Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group uses Microsoft cloud platform for connected cars

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is launching a new cloud platform for its cars. Based on Microsoft Azure, the Alliance Intelligent Cloud will enable features like connected services and over-the-air updates.

Autonomous shuttle rides coming to New York City via Optimus Ride

Workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in NY City will soon be able to make their way around the 300-acre industrial park in Optimus Ride's self-driving shuttles. The tech startup says it's the first trial of its kind in the state.

Waymo boosts robo-taxi plans with new service center in Arizona

Waymo has announced plans for a facility in Phoenix, Arizona, that will help to service, maintain, and grow its fleet of autonomous Waymo One cars. The vehicles operate as part of the company's robo-taxi ridesharing service.

Nvidia’s new simulator brings virtual learning to autonomous vehicle developers

Nvidia introduced a simulator for testing autonomous vehicle technologies. Drive Constellation is a cloud-based platform technology vendors can use to validate systems efficiently, safely, and much faster than with vehicles on real roads.

This modified Land Rover Discovery is heading to Africa to help fight malaria

A Land Rover Discovery will be used by the Mobile Malaria Project for a 3,900-mile trek across Africa to study malaria. The SUV is equipped with a mobile gene-sequencing laboratory, as well as everything necessary for serious off-roading.

Volvo wants to use speed limiters, in-car cameras, and data to reduce crashes

Volvo believes new tech is the best way to improve car safety. The Swedish automaker will let owners set speed limits when loaning out their cars, install cameras to monitor drivers, and use data to design better safety features.
Product Review

The Ferrari Portofino is the super stallion you’ll want to drive every day

With the introduction of the Portofino, Ferrari addresses the California T’s stylistic shortcomings while improving comfort, convenience, and performance. There’s little “entry-level” about this super stallion.

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe teased way ahead of its November debut

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is coming to the United States, eventually. The new compact BMW won't be unveiled until the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The Gran Coupe will be based on a front-wheel drive platform.

Tesla lets you skip the dealership, order a car from the comfort of your couch

Tesla has always bypassed traditional dealerships, and it has now adopted an online-only sales model that lets customers configure and order their car without leaving their couch. Here's what you need to know.

The 2019 Toyota C-HR gains a popular tech feature as its price comes down

Toyota has updated the C-HR, its entry-level crossover, by adding an entry-level trim level to the lineup. Every model regardless of price also comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay.
Product Review

2019 Volkswagen Jetta offers German refinement and tech at an affordable price

With enough tech to make villains jealous, the Volkswagen Jetta punches above its class as a forward-thinking sedan. Spacious, comfortable, and efficient, the Jetta is a refined offering. German refinement comes with a serious attitude.

The 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe is an exercise in form-over-function design

Porsche expanded its lineup of SUVs with a swoopier evolution of the Cayenne named Cayenne Coupe. Don't let the name fool you: it still has four doors. It stands out with a fastback-like roofline that's lower than the Cayenne's.
Product Review

Chris is the virtual co-pilot phone-obsessives need in their car

Driving while using your phone is dangerous, and often illegal. Meet Chris, the digital assistant for your car that wants to help keep your hands off your phone, and your eyes on the road.

Protect yourself and your ride with our favorite dash cams

Dashboard cameras can assist drivers in car accident claims, settle speeding ticket disputes, and even catch glimpses of incoming meteors, among other things. Here, we've compiled a list of the most noteworthy offerings available.