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Baidu is the sixth company approved to test fully driverless cars in California

The Chinese search giant can test its vehicles in Sunnyvale

Image: Baidu

Baidu has gotten the green light to test fully autonomous vehicles on public roads in California.

The Chinese search giant is the sixth company to receive a fully autonomous testing permit from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (the others being Cruise, Waymo, Nuro, Zoox, and AutoX). Currently, 60 companies have an active permit to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver in California.

Baidu, which already spent years working on self-driving technology, is the leading Chinese company in the autonomous vehicle space. Last September, the company demonstrated its Level 4 fully autonomous vehicles at its developer conference, Baidu World. In December, Baidu received the first license to test fully autonomous vehicles on public roads in China. The city of Beijing granted the company permission to test five of its self-driving Apollo vehicles, which are retrofitted Lincoln MKZs and Chrysler Pacificas.

While Baidu has had permission from California regulators 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 only allowed on roads with speed limits of 45 mph, and they can operate day or night but not during inclement weather like fog or rain.

Companies that receive these driverless permits have to provide evidence of insurance or a bond equal to $5 million and follow several other rules, such as training remote operators on the technology.

Baidu recently announced plans to make electric vehicles with help from Geely, the country’s largest private automaker and the parent company of Volvo. Specifically, Baidu and Geely are in talks to use the latter’s scalable electric vehicle platform that it announced late last year. But Baidu will own a majority stake in the new company and will therefore control its direction.