As reported earlier, in an attempt to demonstrate how advanced (and safe) Uber's "self-driving" technology is, the company rolled out a trial of its self-driving Volvo XC90 cars in San Francisco, the second city it has done so after Pittsburgh. However, in a surprising twist, Uber did not obtain a preapproval from the California DMV, perhaps in an attempt to avoid making a public disclosure of any potential infractions its cars might got into.
Unfortunately for the world's most valuable private startup, in a world where everyone has a camera, on the very day of the launch, one of its "self-driving" cars was caught did something we joked in our earlier post may happen: the car ran a red light.
The circumstances of this incident aren’t known at this time, including whether this was while the car was human or computer-operated when it ran the light. Uber said it is looking into this matter as “safety is a top priority.” In an attempt to cover up what could be a reputation bruising scandal, an Uber spokesperson Matt Wing issued a statement saying "this incident was due to human error. This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. This vehicle was not part of the pilot and was not carrying customers. The driver involved has been suspended while we continue to investigate."
No matter the cause, this looks far more like the risk-happy Uber of the early days that often acted in contravention of local regulators to achieve its business goals.
And while the DMV was already angered when it learned of Uber's sole-sourced initiative, it was livid upon learning of the near accident.
As a result, AP reports that California regulators are now threatening Uber with legal action if it does not stop providing service using its self-driving vehicles in San Francisco without state permits.
BREAKING: APNewsBreak: California regulators: Uber must stop self-driving car service in San Francisco until it gets state permit.— The Associated Press (@AP) December 14, 2016
The California Department of Motor Vehicles issued a statement saying Uber was expected to secure such a permit, but Uber maintained that it did not require this clearance because its vehicles were not fully self-driving and have a driver onboard at all times. Uber said earlier that it did not intend to pursue this permit, the requirements for which are detailed by the California DMV on a site dedicated to autonomous vehicle operation on public roads. In a letter to Uber telling it to end the launch of its self-driving service, the DMV states that Uber will face “legal action, including but not limited to, seeking injunctive relief” if it does not comply.
Earlier in the day, the DMV issued a statement in which it said that: “The California DMV encourages the responsible exploration of self-driving cars. 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.”
That means, as TechCrunch puts it, it’s been less than one day since Uber started its test, had its first documented incident with the vehicles and was ordered by the state to stop what it was doing. This definitely looks more like the risk-happy Uber of the early days that often acted in contravention of local regulators to achieve its business goals.
The full letter sent by the CA DMV demanding that Uber stop operating its fleet of self-driving cars in SF or else they will pursue legal action, is below: