The State of California Department of Motor Vehicles recently approved Subaru to be on its list of cars approved under its Testing Autonomous Vehicles program. This brings its list of companies that have permits to test next-generation self-driving cars to 22. Many of the firms on the list are famous, global vehicle manufacturers. Nearly as many are not household names, or brands that anyone outside the industry has heard of. The list shows that the self-driving car industry is broad and some of the most important future players may edge out behemoths like Volkswagen, BMW, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) and Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google.
Among the obscure companies approved by California are Faraday & Future, which is based in Silicon Valley. Its more than 1,400 employees include aerospace engineers and energy experts. Its one claim to fame is that it part of the Formula E all-electric car competition.
Also on the list is Zoox, one of the so-call unicorns, which has a valuation of over $1.5 billion. Zoox has decided to build its own cars, without partnerships. It is a risky strategy for a company that is valuable financially, yet small by the standards of the automotive industry.
Wheego Electric Cars has decided the road of diversity is better than a path that concentrates on one sector. It not only works on self-driving cars. It has projects that include the connected home and others that involve artificial intelligence and machine learning. It abandoned one of its projects, the LowSpeed Whip, a small, slow driving car. Introduced in 2010, which seems light years ago in the self-driving car business, it is no longer in production.
Drive.ai only works on self-driving car engines. Its founders are from Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab. It is also chasing the artificial intelligence and machine learning segment of the industry, which has become crowded.
Valeo North America is a global tech company that does a great deal of work outside U.S. boarders. Its primary goal is to reduce CO2 emissions. Self-driving cars are a subset of that work. Its parent company is huge, with nearly 83,000 employees. As an auto parts provider, its history goes back to 1923.
As major car manufacturers pour money into the self-driving car sector, they may find they are losing out to companies that have never mass produced a car.
The full list of companies approved by California to test self-driving cars, as of February 9:
Volkswagen Group of America
Faraday & Future
Wheego Electric Cars
Valeo North America