Autonomous vehicle development has become highly competitive, and companies working on the technology tend to hold their plans close to the vest. But there's one place where these secrets don't last long: the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
California is one of the few states that regulate autonomous vehicle testing on public roads. And as the home to Silicon Valley, California is where the tech geeks with a little bit of motor oil in their veins try to merge the world of cars and technology.
Although California is not the only state to allow autonomous testing on public roads, it's a hotbed of autonomous driving investment. Looking at the list of businesses that have decided to test vehicles there gives an idea of the variety of companies investing in the technology. Ten companies have received permits since Jan. 1, and only one of them is a traditional automaker.
One of California's requirements is that companies that want to test self-driving vehicles in the state must apply to the California DMV for a permit and have their names published on the agency's website. This requirement has sparked a number of headlines, from Uber's initial refusal to apply for a permit, to Apple revealing its interest in self-driving technology via its application. Apple this month became the 30th company to get a permit to test drive autonomous vehicles in California.
To receive a permit, companies must submit details on the vehicles they plan to test, the drivers supervising them and the training program drivers must complete to operate the cars. Along with a $150 application fee, companies must also post a $5 million bond.
The DMV requires companies that receive a permit to report any accidents their vehicles are involved in, which are made available to the public. The agency also publishes annual reports from each company on how often drivers intervene while testing the cars in autonomous mode -- called disengagement reports. Companies first reported these disengagements in 2016, and the first report included 11 companies.
The list of permit holders includes automakers, suppliers, Silicon Valley tech giants and smaller startups. Some, such as Ford Motor Co. and Tesla Inc., have been public about their self-driving strategies, while others, such as Apple and CarOne, have kept mum on their plans.
Automotive News reviewed records from the DMV on the issued permits, including what vehicles companies have been testing and for how long. The information is up to date as of Wednesday, April 19, and companies are listed in the order they received a permit.