The rush toward self-driving cars just accelerated as California issued permits to privately held Wheego and Valeo North America last week, bringing the total to 17 companies with testing permits.
The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles said the two new companies now have approval to run tests with a single vehicle each, operated by up to four people, the Wall Journal reported.
Those who have followed electric cars for awhile may remember Wheego as the Atlanta-based company that sourced bodies from China that looked like a Smart ForTwo and assembled electric cars in the U.S. that garnered few sales.
The company’s website says it now builds electric vehicles designed “for a global market” and focuses on the benefits of connected tech in making vehicles aware of their surroundings.
Valeo North America is a subsidiary of Valeo SA, a global automotive car parts supplier based in France which manufactures everything from powertrains, to lighting and wipers, to driving assistance and connected car components.
Valeo’s autonomous test car, called the Cruise4U, was on the Paris Beltway a full 24 hours in one driving session in late September, with 99 percent of that time spent under fully autonomous drive mode, except for the breaks it took to swap out human test drivers.
The two new permits follow a California bill passed at the end of September that allows the testing of driverless cars in select locations.
Vehicles can be tested without a driver and minus a steering wheel, brake pedal and accelerator pedal, but testing must take place “only at a privately owned business park designated by the authority, inclusive of public roads within the designated business park” and at speeds below 35 mph only.
It’s apparent at this stage that Valeo and Wheego aren’t at that level of autonomous driving, but expect companies such as General Motors, Google, Ford, Nissan, Uber and Honda to quickly find one of the state approved business parks for testing.