Uber Rolls Out Self-Driving Car Fleet, Faces Backlash From Regulators
Uber Technologies Inc. continued with the launch of its self-driving car fleet in San Francisco on Wednesday despite the warning from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. This received criticism from state regulators who insisted that the company should have secured a permit before bringing the vehicles on the road.
The department sent a letter to the company demanding a halt on the autonomous cars' operations until it receives a testing permit required by the state. The department's chief counsel warned that it will take legal action if Uber does not confirm that it will cease operations and apply for a testing permit.
Uber, however, was firm in its stand that a permit was not necessary because the vehicles cannot be categorized as autonomous. It argues that its cars are equipped with a driver and an engineer in the front seats. The company said that its cars require a person to constantly monitor and take over the vehicle in situations like having to pass a construction zone and pedestrian crossing
In a company blog post, Uber also stated that their cars are "not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them."
Autonomous vehicles are those that operate "without the active physical control or monitoring of a natural person." Referring to this definition, an Uber representative said that their vehicles are "compliant with applicable federal and state laws."
"Several cities and states have recognized that complex rules and requirements could have the unintended consequence of slowing innovation. Our hope is that California, our home state and a leader in much of the world's dynamism, will take a similar view," Uber said.
Uber faced a controversy on Wednesday when an Uber self-driving car running a red light was caught in a video. This footage recorded by a bystander was aired by the local media. The company responded that the car was not in autonomous mode and that the incident was because of human error. Uber assured that the car was not carrying any passengers that time. The driver has also been suspended.