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Argo AI approved for AV tests on California streets

Release Date:2019-03-04

Dive Brief:

  • Pittsburgh-based Argo AI has received a permit to test its self-driving vehicle systems on California streets, according to TechCrunch and others.

  • California will become the latest market where Argo is testing its cars, following Miami, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Washington, DC. The company is working on sensors and software to support autonomous driving, as well as high-definition maps.

  • The permit granted by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) only allows Argo to operate with a driver on board. The tests are expected to begin in Palo Alto, where Argo has an office.

Dive Insight:

Argo AI was founded by veterans of Google and Uber’s autonomous driving programs, and has made inroads since its founding in 2016. A $1 billion investment from Ford Motor Company in 2017 helped the startup staff up, and contributed to its acquisition of LiDAR company Princeton Lightwave.

The Ford partnership has guided a good deal of Argo’s success, as it works on the software and safety platform for the automaker’s autonomous cars. The Miami and Washington, DC tests are done to support Ford’s plans to launch a self-driving taxi service planned for 2021. All told, Argo will have more than 100 vehicles in its test fleet by the end of the year, according to Automotive News. It’s unclear if the California test runs will be in support of Ford or for another Argo initiative.

Although Argo has a wide range of test sites, the branch into California underscores that state’s importance to the autonomous driving industry. More than 60 companies have permission to run autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the state, and in November the government started issuing permits that would allow cars to run without a driver on board (Waymogot the first such permit). The state’s strong tech base and relatively friendly regulatory environment has made it a competitive testing ground, and many automakers have targeted the Bay Area for future commercial launches of driverless networks.

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