Two Chinese startups with subsidiaries in Silicon Valley are allowed to drive with passengers in California. Pony.ai and AutoX received a license from the California Public Utility Commission (PUC), which also regulates taxi business, to drive with external passengers – i.e. not just employees of those companies – on all public roads.
With that new research areas are opening up for those startups. After the control and steering of a vehicle, object and intent recognition, now driving comfort for passengers becomes a focus are. That includes among others not just how smooth a ride for a passenger is, but also where the pick-up and drop-off points are.
Other companies with such a license include Waymo, a Google sister company. With that license come some restrictions, such as the rides must not include pick-ups and drop-offs from and at airports or charging fees for a ride. Also the cars are still required to have a safety driver behind the wheel to take over in case of emergencies. The only company without such a requirement in California so far is Waymo.
This article was also published in German.