Uber puts brakes on self-driving cars in California

uber san francisco

Quick question: Who here gets frustrated with the DMV?

After the last week, we know that Uber certainly does. The company just lost a public battle with the California Department of Motor Vehicles over whether its self-driving cars could operate on San Francisco roads. Who would you side with?

In IT Blogwatch, the DMV becomes interesting. 

So what is going on? Greg Bensinger has the background:

Uber...on Wednesday relented in a...battle with California regulators over self-driving cars, halting a test program in San Francisco after the state revoked the registration of the vehicles involved.
Uber started the experiment a week earlier, making several of its self-driving vehicles available for customers to hail...But it refused to apply for the $150 permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

What exactly was the disagreement over, though? Sudhin Thanawala has the details:

Uber pulled its...cars from California roads after state regulators moved to revoke their registrations...Hours after Uber launched the service in...San Francisco...the Department of Motor Vehicles threatened legal action if the company did not stop...The DMV said the registrations for the vehicles were improperly issued because they were not properly marked as test vehicles.

How was the test program going, though? You know, before the DMV revoked Uber's registrations? Sam Levin has that info:

Within hours of the...program’s start, a video emerged of one of the vehicles running a red light...as a pedestrian began to cross the street. Reports of similar errors quickly spread...Uber blamed the mistakes on “human error,” saying the self-driving technology was not at fault.
That defense earned...criticism from transportation experts and safety advocates, who argued...Uber should take responsibility for...its cars and...collaborate with regulators instead of brazenly defying them.

But why did Uber refuse to get the required permit? Dara Kerr is in the know:

Uber said...it wouldn't get a permit...because the law doesn't apply to its self-driving cars. Because humans constantly monitor its vehicles...and can take over...at any time, they aren't yet autonomous vehicles, Uber said.
The DMV says, however, the law applies to the...technology in the vehicle, not whether a human is behind the wheel...if the car is equipped to be autonomous eventually, it's subject to the law.

So is that it for Uber's self-driving car testing? Not by a longshot. Eric Newcomer fills us in:

Uber still operates self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh...San Francisco was the second city where Uber customers could request a ride in a self-driving car. It may find friendlier officials outside its home state. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey wrote on Twitter, “California may not want you; but AZ does!”

Well, there's that, then. But what do people think about these developments? Julia Carrie Wong shares her feelings:

Only Uber could lose a PR battle to the DMV.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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