Uber is increasing its battle with regulators, taking the fight to self-driving cars.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, starting last Wednesday (Dec. 14), Uber began giving customers in San Francisco rides in self-driving cars despite the fact that California regulators want Uber to have a state permit to operate the autonomous vehicles. Without it, California wants the cars off the road, the WSJ reported.
While Uber is no stranger to fights with regulators, this battle may be different because Uber is the first in the self-driving industry to defy regulators in such a public way. While the cars are self-driving, they are equipped with an Uber driver to take control of the car when need be. According to the WSJ, the Department of Motor Vehicles in California called the move on the part of Uber illegal, Mayor of San Francisco Ed Lee said late last week that Uber needs a permit and California State Attorney General Kamala Harris threatened Uber with a lawsuit.
“It doesn’t apply to us, so there’s no reason to get regulations,” Anthony Levandowski, who oversees Uber’s autonomous group, told the WSJ. “If you’re driving a car, you don’t need a fish-and-game license.”
But California disagrees, telling the WSJ the permits are needed because Uber’s cars have technology that lets them operate without a driver. The report noted that one of Uber’s self-driving cars was caught on camera last week blowing a red light. Uber blamed human error and not the car.
At a time when Uber is gearing up for a new battle with state regulators, it’s also getting cozy with President-elect Donald Trump. Last week Trump tapped Travis Kalanick, chief executive of Uber, and Elon Musk, head of Tesla, as his advisors. According to a report in the Washington Post that cited Trump officials, both CEOs will meet often with Trump and provide expertise to Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum.