Companies planning to build driverless vehicles are already jostling each other on the roads of California. Partnerships are being forged, investment is being pumped in and the state legislators have recently stepped up to the plate as well.

California still pioneering research into autonomous vehicles

Then there were fifteen! After Google, Tesla Motors, Ford, Honda and several others, Chinese web services giant Baidu is the latest company to be granted authorisation to test its self-driving vehicle prototypes on selected Californian roads. As part of this campaign, Baidu has also announced a partnership with Santa Clara, Silicon Valley-based Nvidia, which makes graphics processing units (GPUs) and system-on-a-chip units (SOCs), with a view to creating a cloud-to-car autonomous car platform. The two firms are planning to pool their resources in the fields of artificial intelligence and deep learning to achieve their goals.

This follows Baidu’s move last month to team up with Ford for the purpose of investing in a startup that is developing LIDAR technology, which is used to enable autonomous vehicles to scan their environment. Velodyne LIDAR, based in Morgan Hill, California, is the LIDAR arm of the Velodyne technology trio. Ford recently announced plans to double the workforce at its Silicon Valley research laboratory where autonomous vehicle development is taking place.

In Mountain View, a group of former Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Lab students have recently been attracting media attention to their startup, which is focusing on using deep learning to build software for autonomous driving. Add to all this the fact that California state legislators recently passed a bill authorising road-testing of autonomous cars not equipped with steering wheels and few would disagree that the Golden State fully deserves its reputation as the world’s epicentre for research into autonomous vehicles.

By Guillaume Renouard