SAN FRANCISCO—The online public transportation network Uber Technologies Inc. was ordered by the state of California to remove its self-driving cars from the streets of San Francisco on Wednesday, December 21.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) revoked the registration of 16 self-driving vehicles in San Francisco on the grounds that Uber did not obtain a permit to test its autonomous cars on the roads – as approximately 20 other companies, including Tesla, Google and Ford have done.
Uber argues its self-driven cars are tested with someone in the driver’s seat, ready to take control if necessary, and they do not need to comply with regulations because its cars are not fully autonomous.
At a meeting with representatives from Uber on Wednesday, the California DMV and the Attorney General’s Office demanded the ride-sharing company immediately shut down its newly launched self-driving program and threatened legal action if the company did not comply. California regulators’ crack down comes in light of recent accusations that Uber-owned self-driving vehicles have been running red lights and making unsafe turns through bicycle lanes.
Uber began testing self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs on the streets of its hometown of San Francisco in December and several incidents have since fostered discomfort throughout the community – like the taxi cab dash-cam footage that surfaced last week, showing a self-driving Uber running a red light outside of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Uber alleged it was human error and has since suspended the driver.
“We’re now looking at where we can redeploy these cars but remain 100 percent committed to California and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules,” a spokeswoman for Uber told Canyon News.
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Brian Weidenmeier published a warning alleging he twice saw an Uber self-driving vehicle make an “unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane” during a trial of the service on Monday, December 12; the vehicle crossed into the bike lane at the last minute, which poses a direct threat to cyclists and violates state law.
“It’s one of the biggest causes of collisions,” said coalition spokesman Chris Cassidy in a statement, acknowledging that the group warned Uber of the problem. Company officials told the coalition that Uber was working on the problem but did not mention the self-driving program would be hosting a surprise launch just two days later on Wednesday, December 14, he told the Guardian.
Uber spokeswoman Chelsea Kohler told the Guardian that “engineers are continuing to work on the problem”, and said that the company has instructed drivers to take control when approaching right turns on a street with a bike lane.
“The fact that they know there’s a dangerous flaw in the technology and persisted in a surprise launch,” Cassidy said. “ [It] shows a reckless disregard for the safety of people in our streets.”