LOS ANGELES (AP) — Computer-driven cars have been testing their skills on California roads for more than four years — but until now, the Department of Motor Vehicles wasn’t sure just how many were rolling around.
That changed Tuesday, when the agency issued testing permits that allowed three companies to dispatch 29 vehicles onto freeways and into neighborhoods — with a human behind the wheel in case the onboard computers make a bad decision.
These may be the cars of the future, but for now they represent a tiny fraction of California’s approximately 32 million registered vehicles.
Google’s souped-up Lexus SUVs are the biggest fleet, with 25 vehicles. Mercedes and Volkswagen have two vehicles each, said Bernard Soriano, the DMV official overseeing the state’s “autonomous vehicle” regulation-writing process. A “handful” of other companies are applying for permits, he said.
The permits formally regulate testing that already was underway. Google alone is closing in on 1 million miles. The technology giant has bet heavily on the vehicles, which navigate using sophisticated sensors and detailed maps.
Finally, government rules are catching up.
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