California has handed out its first 29 permits to three companies, allowing them to test self-driving cars on public roads.
The companies that received the permits include Google, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG's Audi.
The permits follow news that permits for testing autonomous vehicles would be a requirement in California, where previously automakers and Google were allowed to test such cars without permits. The permit requirement went into effect Sept. 16.
Engineers at Mercedes-Benz will be effectively "teaching" driverless cars how to safely operate on U.S. roads using methods that are currently being developed and tested in Germany.
Test drivers "must recognize clearly when the car is in autonomous driving mode and must be able to override this mode at any time; in addition, the car must be capable of stopping autonomously at any time," said Mercedes-Benz in a statement.
Other companies are currently applying for autonomous vehicle-testing permits of their own. Requirements to get the permits include that test drivers must be able to take control of vehicles at any time.
"Audi is a driving force behind the research taking automated driving from science fiction to pre-production readiness," said Scott Keogh, president of Audi America, in a press release. "Obtaining the first permit issued by the state of California shows that we intend to remain the leader in this vital technology frontier."
Audi was also the first automaker to receive such a permit in Nevada, which it got back in 2012. There are a number of other manufacturers that are working on self-driving cars, including Ford, General Motors and Nissan. Toyota has said that the technology for autonomous cars is not ready, and as such the company will be focusing more on safety.
Regulations also require automakers to register self-driving vehicles, insure or bond them for $5 million each and complete testing programs.
"Autonomous vehicles are the future of transportation," said DMV Director Jean Shiomoto. "Testing on public roads is one step to developing this technology, and the DMV is excited in facilitating the advancement of autonomous vehicles in California."
Mercedes-Benz has been making advances in other areas of technology as well, saying that it will be using a cloud-computing setup to protect its data, including drivers being able to control what data is available to the outside world while they're driving. Drivers will also have the option of erasing data when they leave the vehicle.
"If we say we're making safe cars, that doesn't just apply to the mechanical technology but to data security," said Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt, head of legal affairs at Mercedes-Benz.