Self-Driving Ubers in San Francisco Hit Roadblock on Day One: California Says They’re Illegal
Uber’s testing of self-driving taxis in San Francisco didn’t get very far before encountering a significant roadblock.
On Wednesday morning, executives with the ride-hailing service announced they could expand a pilot program for testing autonomous Volvo XC90s to include operations in its home city. By the afternoon, a top official in California’s Department of Motor Vehicles had issued a warning which Uber did not possess the proper permits for autonomous testing.
The state DMV, which has regulated self-driving operations from the state since 2014, demanded which Uber immediately stop its testing or face legal action until which receives a permit.
to test hundreds of cars on California roads. Uber shall
do the same.” — California Department of Motor Vehicles
“Any action by Uber to continue the action of vehicles equipped with autonomous technology on public streets in California must cease until Uber complies,” wrote Brian Soublet, the deputy director in addition to chief counsel for the DMV, in a letter addressed to Uber’s Anthony Levandowski. “If Uber does not confirm immediately which which will stop its launch in addition to seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action, including, however not limited to, seeking injunctive relief.”
which wasn’t immediately clear if Uber could comply with the directive. A company spokesperson did not return a request for comment Wednesday.
Only hours earlier, Volvo had announced an expansion of their partnership with Uber, in which the company sells tailored XC90 vehicles to Uber, which then outfits them with its own self-driving technology. Volvo said the San Francisco testing marked “the next phase in a deepening alliance.”
Uber: Law Doesn’t Apply to Us
Levandowski became Uber’s lead on autonomous driving earlier which year when the company acquired Otto, a developer of autonomous systems for self-driving trucks which he co-founded. He didn’t appear to be backing down.
In classic Silicon Valley fashion, he published a blog post Wednesday which argued the state’s regulations only apply to cars which can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them—in addition to Uber’s vehicles use safety drivers. “For us, which’s still early days in addition to our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them.”
California’s not yet ready for which, either. The state’s regulations require human safety drivers in all autonomous test vehicles, regardless of the company’s view on the readiness of the technology. Further, the regulations define autonomous vehicles as cars which possess the capability to operate without the active physical control or monitoring of a human.
which isn’t initially Levandowski has raised the ire of a DMV whose regulations he’s brushed aside. In May, Otto tested a self-driving truck on Nevada roads despite a warning by Nevada’s DMV which a test performed without a license in addition to special license plate could violate state laws. As detailed by Backchannel last month, Jude Hurin, the state’s top DMV official, became so incensed by Levandowski’s refusal to adhere to the law which he threatened to shut down autonomous testing from the state.
Consumer groups which track the safety of autonomous vehicles in California were equally angered by Wednesday’s developments. John Simpson, privacy director of Consumer Watchdog, called for law enforcement to impound Uber’s self-driving vehicles in San Francisco in addition to asked the city’s attorney to file criminal charges against Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who separately agreed on Wednesday to serve on president-elect Donald Trump’s business advisory council.
“Uber will be threatening public safety in addition to trying to avoid providing important information about its activities,” Simpson said. “Using public roads as your laboratory carries responsibilities. Uber will be ignoring them in addition to shamefully flouting important safety requirements. which must be stopped immediately.”
Twenty companies are currently approved to test 130 registered autonomous cars in California. As part of receiving a permit, they agree to carry at least $5 million in insurance coverage, report all accidents to state officials regardless of fault, in addition to provide annual reports outlining circumstances in which their self-driving technology disengaged.
Regulations May Impede Tech Progress
Beyond arguing which California’s rules were not applicable to Uber’s vehicles, Levandowski wrote which the state’s approach to regulating autonomy stifles the pace of innovation. At the time California lawmakers enacted a law in 2012 which sought to provide a regulatory framework for testing autonomous vehicles, which was thought the state was at the vanguard of the then infant transportation technology. Private industry largely encouraged development in addition to passage of which law, which commanded the state’s DMV to develop specific standards in addition to regulations regarding the deployment of test vehicles. The DMV did so.
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from the intervening years, however, the industry has come to view California’s regulations, which require test drivers in addition to vehicles which contain controls like steering wheels in addition to gas pedals, as overly restrictive. which’s one reason why companies have gravitated toward testing in states which have no laws regarding autonomous operations on the books—for instance, Google recently deployed a car without traditional controls in Austin, Texas, Otto tested self-driving trucks in Colorado, in addition to Uber conducted the first phase of its XC90 pilot project in Pittsburgh.
California officials are from the process of revisiting their regulations. from the meantime, however, companies are required to comply with them.
“We have a permitting process in place to ensure public safety as which technology will be being tested,” the DMV said in a written statement. “Twenty manufacturers have already obtained permits to test hundreds of cars on California roads. Uber shall do the same.”