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Chinese Startup WeRide to Begin Self-Driving Car Testing in the U.S.

Residents of San Jose, California, are about to see something new riding around: fully autonomous robotaxis, with no driver in sight. That’s because WeRide just got the green light for the second phase of their driverless cars testing.
WeRide is testing driverless vehicles in China and the U.S. 1 photo
The California Department of Motor Vehicles recently authorized Chinese startup WeRide Corp. to test two autonomous cars, with no safety driver, in San Jose.

Just a few years back, the thought of any type of vehicle with no driver in it riding alongside traditional cars in everyday traffic seemed to be something far away. Yet, the fully autonomous vehicle trend is growing fast, with many new startups focusing on self-driving technology. And, while self-driving testing with a safety driver on board is already gaining in popularity, releasing fully autonomous cars, with no driver, is an important milestone that is about to be reached.

WeRide, the first company to introduce a robotaxi in China, was also testing its cars in the U.S., since 2017. But only now, with this particular DMV permit, it can skip the safety driver and release driverless cars in San Jose.

Of course, there are certain regulations in place for this. The WeRide test cars will only have access to specific streets, from Monday through Friday and with a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour (72 kph). They are also banned from operating in certain weather conditions, such as heavy rain or fog. And, in order to get the permit, they had to meet specific safety, insurance and registration requirements.

WeRide is now one of the seven companies to receive a permit for driverless testing in California, another one being GM-backed Cruise. A total of 56 companies are currently authorized in the state of California to test autonomous vehicles with a human operator on board.

It’s been two years since WeRide launched its first robotaxi service in Guangzhou, China and, according to a survey they’ve conducted, more than half of the passengers who used this service so far called a robotaxi for their usual commute, while many used it just to see what it’s like – which many of us would also do, no doubt about it.

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