Increasing Attention Given to Chinese Autonomous Vehicle Startups Operating in California
Chinese autonomous vehicle startups have driven hundreds of thousands of test miles on California’s roads in recent years, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. In fact, of the 40 companies with licenses to operate autonomous vehicles in California, 10 of them are firms based in China, representing a share larger than that of any other foreign country (e.g., Germany, Israel). Collectively, such 10 Chinese autonomous vehicle startups have operated 124 driverless vehicles in the State of California and driven 438,379 miles in the most recently reported year. Previously, Chinese driverless vehicles in California drew little scrutiny because of their relatively minor scale compared to the larger operations of US competitors, including Cruise and Waymo. As US-China relations have deteriorated, however, scrutiny of Chinese autonomous vehicles in the US by lawmakers has increased. Concerns from regulators and policymakers in the US center around issues concerning competition, data privacy, the potential weaponization of such vehicles by China in the event of armed conflict, and China’s human rights record.
Waymo Returns to Miami to Improve Software
Waymo teams and vehicles have recently descended upon Miami, where Waymo traveled in May 2019 during its development process in order to test software changes and further improve its software, in each case, in relation to rain conditions. During such tests, operators will be present within Waymo vehicles, but such vehicles will be in autonomous mode at times. In addition to improving Waymo software in connection with rain conditions, Waymo’s goals with respect to its return to and testing in Miami include expanding Waymo services in other geographical locations. Waymo, however, would not confirm whether Miami is among such locations. Waymo is confident its testing will be safe for Miami pedestrians, as Waymo reported only two crashes that met federal reporting guidelines during its first one million driverless miles.
Texas Boasts Increasing Number of Driverless Cars
In Texas, a variety of companies, including Waymo, Cruise, Aurora, and Starship, are testing driverless vehicles, including as passenger, freight, and personal delivery devices. In Austin alone, there are roughly 125 autonomous vehicles in operation. Critical to the growth of AV technology and the AV industry in Texas is the law in Texas relating to autonomous vehicles (Senate Bill 2205, which took effect in September 2007). Under such law, cities are barred from regulating autonomous vehicles, resulting in a uniform legal AV framework across the state. In accordance with such framework, the procedures in relation to licensing for autonomous vehicles may be different from, and potentially less cumbersome than, regular vehicles. Some believe this may have set the groundwork for a flourishing AV industry in Texas.