Uber Fires Back at California DMV in Self-Driving Car Spat
Hours after the launch, the DMV sent a letter ordering Uber to cease operations until it had obtained a license to test and operate autonomous vehicles on public roads, warning the company that if it did not stop then the DMV would pursue “legal action”.
After Uber rolled out its self-driving cars to passengers in San Francisco on Wednesday, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles told the ride-hailing company it was breaking the law and had to take its cars off the streets and get a permit. “It’s hard to understand why the DMV would seek to require self-driving Ubers to get permits when it accepts that Tesla’s Autopilot technology does not need them”. A statement from the Mayor’s office said that said: “The Mayor is working with the DMV, state officials and the city attorney’s office to explore all possible avenues available to us to enforce state law”. Should it fail to do so, “the Attorney General will seek injunctive and other appropriate relief”, said Miguel Neri and Fiel Tigno, Supervising Deputy Attorneys General.
Levandowski declined to say whether Uber would keep its cars on San Francisco’s streets. In a Tesla, a driver will receive auditory and visual warnings if he takes his hands off the wheel, and if he doesn’t put them back on, the vehicle will gradually slow down and that hazard lights will turn on.
Asked if Uber was trying to avoid disclosing accidents involving its self-driving cars, as permit holders are required to do, Levandowski denied this. If Uber can not advise the undersigned that it will immediately remove its self-driving vehicles from California public roadways until it obtains the appropriate permit, as 20 other companies have done, the Attorney General will seek injunctive and other appropriate relief. The agency sent Uber a letter on Wednesday afternoon, hours after the testing had started, telling the ride-hailing company to stop the launch of its self-driving vehicle pilot or face legal action.
Speaking publicly about the issue for the first time since the DMV threatened Uber with legal action Wednesday – hours after the program launched – a company executive Friday doubled down on Uber’s argument that it is exempt from the state’s self-driving vehicle regulations. “As long as that’s the case, it’s not an autonomous vehicle”, he said. All require driver engagement.
It should be noted, though, that Tesla, in addition to nearly two dozen other auto and technology companies, have obtained autonomous vehicle testing permits from the DMV.
The California DMV did not respond to a request for comment.
Uber’s spat erupted Wednesday, shortly after it inaugurated the service in its home city, using a fleet of modified Volvo XC90 SUVs equipped with its latest iteration of sensors and software.
“We can not in good conscience sign up to regulation for something we are not doing”, he said.
A screen in the back of the Uber shows what the self-driving cameras see in the world around the vehicle.
“This type of technology is commonplace on thousands of cars driving in the Bay Area today, without any DMV permit at all”, he said. CEO Travis Kalanick and his plan for Uber to dominate the mobility market are profiled in the current issue of Forbes.
The difference the DMV might see between Tesla and Uber? A self-driving Uber was also caught on video running a red light this week.
For now, neither action appears likely, ensuring that the battle is about to escalate.