Earlier in the week, Uber started testing self-driving cars in San Francisco, offering ride-sharing services to customers on the UberX version of the Volvo XC90 outfitted with autonomous driving technology.
The Department of Motor Vehicles of California, however, is not happy with Uber's move, ordering the company to stop using self-driving cars in the state as it claims that Uber needs to secure the necessary permits to test the vehicles in California's public roads.
Uber Defies California DMV, Keeps Self-Driving Cars On The Road
Uber, in a statement released through its online newsroom, said that the company believes it does not need to apply for a testing permit for its self-driving cars. As such, it is defying the order of California's DMV and is keeping it vehicles on the road.
Uber explained that the operations of the self-driving cars in San Francisco will not be different compared to Pittsburgh, where the company's pilot program on the technology has been running for months. In addition, Uber believes that only vehicles that will not have a human inside that can monitor and take over control of the car need to apply for the permit that the California DMV is requiring. The self-driving cars that Uber is testing have a pair of technicians in the vehicle, one of which is a safety driver and the other one being a test engineer.
Will Uber Get In Trouble For This?
"It seems to me from my reading of the law that while this [permit pertains to the] concept of an autonomous vehicle, there's a human in it [in Uber's case]," said Bradley Tusk, a shareholder and advisor for Uber, adding that the company often does innovative things that eventually get worked out with regulators.
Uber's head for self-driving cars, Anthony Levandowski, said that the company respectfully disagrees with the stance of the California DMV in requiring Uber to secure a permit before testing its self-driving cars, arguing that the technology that Uber is using is no different than the self-driving technology found in Tesla Motors' vehicles.
One of the reasons why the DMV of California is clamping down on Uber is that drivers of Tesla Motors vehicles are always required to keep their hands on the steering wheel, even when the Autopilot technology is activated. In Uber's case, the technicians can take their hands off the steering wheel.
It does not help that there has been footage recorded of an Uber self-driving car running a red light, which the company said is currently investigating.
The California DMV said that it will be initiating legal action if Uber does not immediately comply with its order to stop testing self-driving cars in San Francisco. Given Uber's response, it seems that the company should start gathering their lawyers.