To be clear, Google was the first company to receive such a license from Nevada, followed by an announcement from automotive supplier Continental, which claimed to be the first industry supplier granted the privilege of operating autonomous cars on Nevada’s roads.
Now comes word that Audi has become the first automaker granted a license to operate autonomous cars in Nevada, and we say that’s a major milestone towards a future filled with self-driving cars. According to the Nevada DMV, Audi was issued the second red plate, though Continental beat them to the announcement.
Audi has been a leader in the development of autonomous car technology, and its parent, Volkswagen Group, worked with Stanford University to develop a fully-autonomous Audi TTS. In 2010, the car climbed the 156-turn, 12.4 mile road to the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado in 27 minutes.
Audi prefers the term “piloted” to “autonomous,” as piloted driving (where an active driver has the ability to override a car’s autonomous systems) will be a reality far sooner than truly autonomous driving. It’s best to think of piloted driving like an airplane’s “autopilot” function; a pilot is still present in the cockpit to take control if necessary.
The exception to this could be piloted parking, which would enable future Audi models to park themselves safely, sans driver, in tight confines. Such automated parking systems could dramatically increase the number of spaces available in crowded urban parking lots.
Receiving the coveted red “Autonomous Vehicle” license plate from the state of Nevada is no minor achievement. Company’s requesting a license must submit a lengthy application package and provide documentation that the vehicle has already been tested for a minimum of 10,000 miles.
The application requires a description of all technology used, submission of a safety plan and copies of training documentation for drivers licensed under the program. Autonomous vehicle capabilities must also be demonstrated to a licensing board before approval is granted.