California Issues Self-Driving Vehicle Testing Permits to Valeo, Wheego

by Tim Higgins for the Wall Street Journal

Valeo North America has joined Wheego Electric Cars Inc. in receiving permits to test self-driving vehicles on public roads in California.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles said this week that both companies received approval for programs involving one vehicle operated by up to four people.

The permits have become an indicator of which companies are progressing in the emerging field. Cruise Automation received a permit before General Motors Co. in Marchagreed to acquire the startup in a deal valued at $1 billion.

Valeo is a unit of French auto supplier Valeo SA, which joins several other parts makers trying to develop technology that auto makers may need to put self-driving cars on the road.

Wheego, a privately held company based in Atlanta led by former EarthLink Inc.president Mike McQuary is working to design and sell electric vehicles.

Auto makers and tech companies are racing to take advantage of self-driving technology, which is evolving rapidly. Alphabet Inc.’s Google reached more than 2 million miles of autonomous driving on public roads this week, while Uber is testing autonomous taxis in Pittsburgh. Ford Motor Co. has said it would have self-driving cars in five years.

IHS Markit estimates global sales of autonomous vehicles will reach 21 million in 2035.

Valeo was sent its permit Friday while Wheego got its on Thursday, according to a DMV spokeswoman. Other suppliers licensed for testing in California include Bosch andDelphi Automotive.

Seventeen companies are permitted to test their autonomous vehicles on California roads, according to the state.