Uber removes self-driving cars from San Francisco roads

Uber pulled its self-driving cars from San Francisco’s streets after the state of California revoked registrations for the vehicles.

The withdraw impacted 16 Uber automobiles as a result of Uber’s obscure defiance of a California requirement that it get a $150 permit to operate self-driving cars in San Francisco.

Uber said that it began rolling out its self-driving vehicles in its hometown of San Francisco without requesting permission from authorities. The company argued it hadn’t acted any different to Tesla Motors, which makes electric cars that include a feature called Autopilot.

In relation, Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s self-driving vehicle team, told reporters that the Volvo XC90 SUVs in the San Francisco test fleet, didn’t require a permit since each vehicle had two technicians in the front seats at all times. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) strongly disagreed and the California Attorney General’s office demanded that Uber comply or halt the program.

Uber may say that its self-driving cars don’t need test permits, but their functionality still seems to be a work in progress. Other road users pointed out a few traffic incidents within days of the car’s arrival on Californian streets — camera footage showed a vehicle running a red light, and programming faults were identified that could see the self-driving vehicles making potentially unsafe turns in bike lanes.

Uber acknowledged from the get-go that it wouldn’t seek Autonomous Vehicle Testing permits, despite the fact that they aren’t difficult to acquire. There are currently 20 companies testing a total of 130 autonomous vehicles in California, which along with several individual test drivers have already received these permits, according to the DMV.

In a statement, Uber confirmed that it had stopped its self-driving pilot in California after the registrations were revoked. “We’re now looking at where we can redeploy these cars, but remain 100 per cent committed to California and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules”.

The revocation of the registrations means that Uber cannot legally use its vehicles on San Francisco roads. The DMV did however point out that the company would be able to restart its self-driving service in the city once the relevant permit is secured.

In a letter to Uber’s Davis White, Jean Shiomoto — the director of the California DMV — said that the agency “stands ready to work with Uber collaboratively,” and that the “autonomous vehicle testing application process is simple and straightforward.”

Uber is currently still operating its self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh, where the program began in September. San Francisco was the second city where Uber customers could request a ride in a self-driving car.






Image credit: wired.com

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