The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) today awarded autonomous car startup AutoX a permit authorizing it to test driverless vehicles on streets within a designated part of San Jose. While AutoX has had state authority to pilot vehicles with safety drivers since 2017, the new license allows the company to test one autonomous vehicle without a driver behind the wheel on streets around its San Jose headquarters.
With the permit — the third-ever awarded in California’s history, following issuances to Waymo and Nuro — AutoX will be able to drive its test vehicles in “fair weather conditions” and light precipitation on streets at speeds not exceeding 45 miles per hour. Currently, 62 companies have an active permit to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver.
AutoX, which recently launched robo-taxi services in Shenzhen and Shanghai involving fleets as large as 100 cars, was founded by former Princeton University assistant professor Xiao Jianxiong, who also serves as the company’s CEO. Xiao launched AutoX in 2016 with the goal of “democratizing” autonomy through a full-stack system — AI Driver — packing solid-state lidar sensors, high-definition cameras, and a computer that acts as the brains of the system. He often claims that part of the company’s secret sauce is a custom-designed control unit dubbed the XCU, which ostensibly delivers faster processing speed and more computational capability than competing solutions.
The issuance of the new permit follows AutoX’s August 2018 autonomous grocery delivery pilot in San Jose, in partnership with GrubMarket.com and local grocery store DeMartini Orchard. The company claims to be the first autonomous car startup in China to deploy self-driving vehicles that can reach speeds upwards of 50 miles per hour and one of the first whose vehicles are connected to Shanghai’s 5G-based vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) technology, which enables them to communicate with road infrastructure and traffic lights.
AutoX is backed by Alibaba and based in Hong Kong, and it has secured over $160.1 million in venture capital financing to date from investors including Plug and Play Ventures, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, and Dongfeng Motor Group. In January, the company said it would partner with Fiat Chrysler to roll out robo-taxi services both within China and other countries in Asia. And last year, AutoX announced a collaboration with NEVS to deploy an autonomous taxi pilot in Europe by the end of 2020.
We reached out to AutoX for comment, and we’ll update this article if we hear back.