We hardly knew ye.
Uber’s San Francisco self-driving car initiative was halted almost as soon as details were released. On Wednesday (Dec. 14), Uber announced it would bring the self-driving Volvo XC90s — like the ones it rolled out for downtown Pittsburgh back in September — to San Francisco. Well, semi-self-driving, as the ride is supervised by a live person in the driver’s seat at all times.
But California regulators have reportedly ordered Uber to shut down the program until it acquires a $150 autonomous vehicle testing permit from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Along with acquiring a permit, companies testing self-driving technology in California must provide autonomous vehicle accident data, along with a record of how often autonomous drive mode is disengaged.
Brian Soublet, deputy director and chief counsel of the DMV, was quoted in a letter to Uber’s self-driving vehicle program officials: “It is illegal for the company to operate its self-driving vehicles on public roads until it receives an autonomous vehicle testing permit. Any action by Uber to continue the operation of vehicles equipped with autonomous technology on public streets in California must cease until Uber complies.”
Uber had previously stated that it didn’t need a permit since a human driver is always at the wheel. Not having a permit also means Uber would have been exempt from providing accident and self-driving disengagement data.
Anthony Levandowski, head of the advanced technology group, wrote in an Uber company blog post, “We understand that there is a debate over whether or not we need a testing permit to launch self-driving Ubers in San Francisco. We have looked at this issue carefully, and we don’t believe we do. The rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them. For us, it’s still early days, and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them.”
The California DMV has said it will initiate legal action against Uber if the ridesharing company does not confirm it will halt the launch and acquire a testing permit.