Uber's self-driving pilot in San Francisco hits bumps

By Lisa Lacy | n/a

December 15, 2016 | 4 min read

The very same day Uber's self-driving Volvos hit the streets of San Francisco seeking uberX riders, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has reportedly demanded the ride-share company stop operating its fleet of autonomous cars – and is threatening legal action.

ReCode reports that’s because Uber did not seek a permit to operate self-driving cars on public roads.

In a statement announcing the pilot, Uber cited “debate over whether or not we need a testing permit to launch self-driving Ubers in San Francisco,” and added, “We don’t believe we do.”

Uber's self-driving pilot in San Francisco has hit a few bumps.

Uber's self-driving pilot in San Francisco has hit a few bumps.

The ride-sharing company said this is in part because the DMV rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them.

“For us, it’s still early days and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them,” Uber said. “But there is a more fundamental point—how and when companies should be able to engineer and operate self-driving technology. We have seen different approaches to this question. Most states see the potential benefits, especially when it comes to road safety. And several cities and states have recognized that complex rules and requirements could have the unintended consequence of slowing innovation. [Pennsylvania], Arizona, Nevada and Florida in particular have been leaders in this way, and by doing so have made clear that they are pro technology. Our hope is that California, our home state and a leader in much of the world’s dynamism, will take a similar view.”

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ReCode, however, cited a letter from the California DMV to Anthony Levandowski, who heads Uber’s self-driving efforts, which threatened legal action if Uber does not stop operating these vehicles and file for a permit.

“The California DMV encourages the responsible exploration of self-driving cars,” the DMV added in a statement. “We have a permitting process in place to ensure public safety as this technology is being tested. Twenty manufacturers have already obtained permits to test hundreds of cars on California roads. Uber shall do the same.”

But Uber’s autonomous woes in the City by the Bay don’t end there. According to a video obtained by the San Francisco Examiner, one of Uber’s self-driving cars also ran a red light on Wednesday.


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