Alibaba-financed AutoX wants to test self-driving cars without humans

AutoX, a startup flush with cash from China's Alibaba, would be only the second to test autonomous cars without any humans after Waymo.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
AutoX self-driving car startup

The startup thinks it's ready to take the human out of the car.


Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo may have a new challenger that hails from China. AutoX, a startup with funding from Alibaba , has applied for a California permit to test autonomous cars in the state that do not feature a human backup driver, Reuters first reported on Wednesday.

Instead, the permit would allow AutoX to test the vehicles with a backup driver behind the scenes, so to speak, via remote control. Only Waymo currently holds this permit and has started to trial self-driven trips without any human backup drivers. AutoX, if granted permission, could quickly become a challenger.

AutoX isn't new to the scene and has tested in California for the past three years. The company's chief operating officer said its technology "can go in deep" and will be "safe for the public," in confirming its permit application with the publication. 

Waymo's autonomous Pacifica cruising through Castle

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According to the report, there are 60 companies that test self-driving cars in California with backup drivers. It's not clear if any other units are currently in the process of applying for and securing a permit to remove the human backup driver.

The move is obviously, a major step and vote of confidence in a company's technology. Waymo has been closest to launching a public ride-sharing service with its autonomous cars, which may now feature no human inside at all. The company still operates its service, called Waymo One, on an invite-only basis and it's still not ready for totally public trials.

Other companies have faced setbacks. said it would not commercialize its self-driving cars this year through its Cruise Automation division as it once said. has also dialed back expectations for when its autonomous cars will be ready to deploy at a major scale.

Watch this: A ride on public streets in Waymo One