Chinese start-up AutoX, backed by Alibaba Group (NYSE: BABA), has applied to test driverless cars in California without backup drivers, becoming the first challenger to Waymo, the self-driving car owned by Google parent Alphabet. If licensed, AutoX could use remote human operators instead of in-car back-up drivers to test driverless cars, which would represent a step forward in California’s first commercial driverless delivery truck or taxi to officially operate.
So far, only Waymo has been granted a full license to test driverless cars without a backup driver. AutoX is much smaller than Waymo, and autoX is the first of more than 60 companies in California that have tested for backup drivers.
“After three years of hard work, we believe our technology can go a step further and be safe for the public,” said AutoX Chief Operating Officer Li Zhuo, confirming that the company had submitted the application.
U.S. technology companies such as Waymo, General Motors’ Cruise division and Uber’s troubled self-driving arm are vying to make a breakthrough in the driverless car market, which itself is struggling to deliver on its early promises.
AutoX’s main investors include Dongfeng Motor Group and Alibaba Group, founded in 2016 by former Princeton University professor Jianxiong Xiao, a 3D learning, computer vision and robotics technologist.
The Hong Kong-based company has so far raised $143 m from investors, deployed 100 Robotaxi robot taxis in China and sat in Shenzhen, Shanghai and San Jose, California, where its second base is based, according to Pitchbook, a data provider. Jose) and 10 other cities were tested.
Companies such as Tesla, Ride and Cruise have also obtained permission from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to test driverless cars with backup drivers in the state, but only four companies have another license to test passenger cars with backup drivers. AutoX is one of them. In addition to Waymo and AutoX, the other two companies are Unmanned Technology Startup spowered by The Unmanned Technology Startup and Pony.ai, which has a partnership with Toyota And Hyundai.
Zoox and Pony.ai declined to say whether they had filed an application with the California Department of Motor Vehicles for a no-backup driver test.