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Technology

Baidu wins green light to test fully driverless cars in California

Company is second from China to receive such a permit in the state

Baidu Apollo, the search engine giant's autonomous vehicle unit, is a leading self-driving player in China. (Photo courtesy of the company) 

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- Chinese tech company Baidu, best known for its search engine, has received a permit to test fully autonomous vehicles without a safety driver in California, the state's Department of Motor Vehicles said Wednesday.

Baidu is the sixth company to receive a driverless test permit from California, after Waymo, Nuro, Zoox, Cruise, and AutoX -- an Alibaba-backed, Chinese self-driving startup. There are 58 companies that have an active permit to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver in California, according to the DMV.

Baidu first received the state's authorization to test autonomous vehicles with safety drivers in 2016. But the new permit will allow the company to test three autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel in Sunnyvale, a city in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"The permit will allow us to test our autonomous driving Lincoln MKZ and Chrysler Pacifica day and night within Sunnyvale," Baidu said in a news release, adding that it is the first company to receive driverless test permits for two different vehicle models in the state.

AutoX, the other Chinese company that has received the driverless test permit, was granted permission to test their autonomous vehicles in California last July.

Baidu did not specify when the test drives will begin. The permit allows Baidu to test vehicles without a driver on open roads in Sunnyvale with a speed limit of 45 mph, except on days with heavy fog or rain, according to the DMV's announcement.

In China, Baidu has been testing autonomous vehicles without a safety driver in Beijing and Changsha since last year.

Baidu has been pouring more resources in its automotive business in recent years. The company announced this month that it has teamed up with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, China's largest private automotive group, to make electric cars in China.

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