Uber was very thrilled that it was finally testing its self-driving vehicles in California. However, the thrill failed to last long, as regulators in the state seek to stop the company from doing such tests due to lack of necessary permits. To make matters worse, two of Uber’s self-driving vehicles were caught running red light in San Francisco, California.
Uber has been running its ride-hailing operations in San Francisco – where its headquarters is also located – since 2011. It recently ventured into self-driving ride-hailing vehicles, which made their debut in September 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After a few months, Uber commenced operations of its self-driving vehicles in San Francisco this week using camera-fitted Volvo XC90 seven-seater SUVs. Uber’s XC90 units are very fairly easy to notice to recognize thanks to the prominent mount on its rooftop. Uber’s self-driving rides could be good news, considering that the autonomous vehicle has been becoming a key point of future mobility. But maybe not for Uber.
It turned out that Uber failed to – or more so intently didn’t – secure any permit from the state of California to bring its self-driving Volvo XC90 units on the streets for testing. Companies wishing to have their autonomous or self-driving vehicles ply the streets in California need to secure permit to do so from the state, in particular from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). According to DMV, such permit need to be secured in order to ensure public safety as autonomous technology is being tested.
DMV remarked that they have already given such permits to around 20 companies involving hundreds of self-driving vehicles. But Uber is not one these companies, so as per DMV, the ride-hailing company is doing something illegal in California. This means that for Uber to be able to have its self-driving units be welcomed on California roads once again, it has to obtain permit from DMV.
But Uber is seeing no need to do so. As reports have indicated, Uber’s self-driving XC90 units always have someone behind the wheel. As per Uber’s logic, there is no need to obtain self-driving test permits from DMV basically because its vehicles are not fully autonomous units – they are semi-autonomous rides with drivers on the wheel.
However, something is puzzling us. If a driver is always behind the wheel of the self-driving XC90, why did it fail to stop at the red traffic light? Its driver should be able to hit the brake on time. This is further aggravated by the fact that there were not just one, but two documented incidences of Uber self-driving vehicles running the red light.
Should Uber becomes adamant on continuing its self-driving operations in California, a legal battle could brewing between the ride-hailing company and state regulators.