California is on track to be the first state to allow self-driving cars to be tested without a human backup driver in the vehicle. The first truly autonomous tests could begin in the state later this year. Qualifying cars will have to meet federal safety standards or have a NHTSA exemption.
Companies licensed to test self-driving cars in California include BMW (OTCPK:BMWYY), Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), Delphi Automotive (NYSE:DLPH), Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA), Waymo (GOOG, GOOGL), Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU), NextEV, Faraday Future -- as well as startups like Zoox, Drive.ai, AutoX and PlusAI, according to Automotive News.
The Detroit automakers aren't asleep at the self-driving wheel. Last month, Ford (NYSE:F) invested $1B in artificial intelligence software firm Argo AI, while General Motors (NYSE:GM) already has a self-driving Chevy Bolt out in the wild and a major partnership with Lyft (Private:LYFT).
What to watch: The self-driving revolution isn't about taking away the enjoyable aspect of driving. Analysts see the most upside for investment returns on the commercial side of the automobile business and with related technology disruption. Ars Technica breaks down the next-gen mapping innovation that is tied to the autonomous vehicle push. There may even be an investment play on the supplier side of the equation.