Google got the ball rolling on autonomous car talk, and the Mercedes S-Class can basically drive hands free in certain situations. But Audi is the first company to get the newly-required autonomous driving permits California now requires of all self-driving cars.
Audi has sought to carve out a space for itself in the autonomous vehicle discussion, and recently it successfully completed a “congestion autopilot” pilot program. In that test, the car took control in stop-and-go traffic at speeds below 37.5 MPH, and California has agreed to give Audi permission to test its car on its highways and byways.
Audi is happy to have this permit in its pocket, as California is home to its Electronics Research Lab, or ERL. The ERL helped develop an automated Audi TTS Pikes Peak car, which climbed the famous mountain race track in 27 minutes without any human assistance.
“Audi is a driving force behind the research taking automated driving from science fiction to pre-production readiness,” said Scott Keogh, President, Audi of America. “Obtaining the first permit issued by the State of California shows that we intend to remain the leader in this vital technology frontier.”
The permit comes as regulators raise questions about the legalities surrounding self-driving car. The new California law now requires steering wheels and brakes in autonomous cars, and that the driver be in the driver’s seat and awake at all times. These cars must also carry $5 million of insurance to cover injury or damage to property.
California has become a leader in plug-in cars with more than 100,000 plug-in vehicles on its roads today, and it looks like it could become a leader in autonomous car technology as well.