Faraday Gets Green Light to Test Autonomous Cars in California

FFZERO 1 race car autonomous car
FFZERO 1 race car | Source: Faraday

When EV startup Faraday Future unveiled its FFZERO1 concept in January, the zero-emissions future suddenly began to look a lot more sinister. While Frank M. Rinderknecht and his Rinspeed team are developing happy looking autonomous cars in Switzerland, an angry alternative to petrol powered automobiles has reared it alien-like head, and it looked plenty fearsome.

But while the FFZERO1 looked like a prop from an Independence Day-style alien blockbuster, it left most people scratching their heads. For a company that promised autonomous, electric, ride-share friendly pods, the far-out concept came completely out of left field, leading to serious questions of whether Faraday would ever be able to get its act together. That could change with the recent news that Faraday Future won approval to begin testing its self-driving systems on California roads, potentially putting the company back on track and restoring its status as a wild card in the autonomous race. That’s a pretty big deal for both the company and its investors — which include the state of Nevada, which sunk $335 million into the company before it saw a single product.

FFZERO 1 prototype
FFZERO 1 prototype | Source: Faraday

After winning approval from California, the unproven automaker plans to move full steam ahead with production, with the goal of building and selling electric vehicles as early as next year in the U.S., according to a recent Automotive News report. Nevertheless, the Los Angeles-based startup remains pretty tight-lipped on any details surrounding its autonomous technology.

Faraday Future
Faraday Future | Source: Faraday

In the past, California has approved the testing of on-road autonomous automobiles for 13 separate companies, with Silicon Valley startups Zoox and Drive.ai being some of the most recent of the bunch. Reports show that California has also approved testing for cars coming out of Cruise Automation, a company that was recently purchased by General Motors. But Automotive News claims that sources familiar with Faraday’s program say that the company has already been testing prototype vehicles for the past year at its facilities in hopes of getting the upper hand.

In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, Jan Becker, senior director of automated driving at Faraday’s San Jose tech center, projected that the company’s electric vehicles would have “state of the art driver assistance systems” when they hit the market, but due to the complexity of the situation, refused to provide a timetable pertaining to when fully autonomous driving will be put into play.

But she did acknowledge that once these systems are made fully available in America, they’ll be able to offer “automatic over-the-air software updates similar to those provided by Tesla.” While this may not seem like a big deal to some of you, it’s further proof that the automotive industry is turning into something straight out of science fiction.

FFZERO 1 race car
FFZERO 1 race car | Source: Faraday

So while Faraday’s FFZERO1 has our vote for being most sinister looking autonomous alien air — err — landcraft in the race, the company still has its hands full with just about everything else. It’s difficult enough to be a startup automaker. It’s even harder when your autonomous competition on California roads includes Google, Tesla, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, BMW, Honda, and Ford, as well as auto suppliers Bosch and Delphi Automotive, the latter of which autonomously drove from coast to coast last year.