Uber pulls self-driving cars from the road after Calif. cancels permits

The Department of Motor Vehicles said permits issued for the vehicles in San Francisco were done so improperly, but that the state stands by ready to work with Uber to fix the situation.
By Stephen Feller  |  Dec. 22, 2016 at 12:40 AM
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SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- After arguing licensing to test self-driving cars did not require the registrations other companies testing similar technologies have sought, Uber pulled its vehicles off the road Wednesday when California officials pulled the registrations they did have for the cars.

Uber stopped testing its self-driving vehicles in California after losing their registrations, the culmination of a battle with Department of Motor Vehicles officials that reached fever pitch after video surfaced of one of the cars running a red light.

While other companies, including Tesla, Google and Mercedes-Benz, have applied for and received special permits to test driverless vehicles in California, Uber had refused to do so because their cars are not really driverless -- an Uber employee is riding along to take control of the vehicle in case anything unexpected happens.

"Our main reason for not applying is because we don't think the regulations apply to how we're driving the cars," Anthony Levandowski, vice president of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group, told CBS News.

In a statement on Dec. 16, Levandowski said the company believes the self-driving registration -- which includes requirements for companies to collect data on the vehicles and report back to the state -- does not apply to their vehicles because they are not actually driverless.

California state law excludes "self-driving" vehicles with driver assistance features but are not capable of driving themselves without some sort of control or monitoring of a person in the vehicle, Uber says, which means they do not need the permits officials say they should have.

State officials criticized Uber for not applying for the permits when it launched the self-driving vehicle test a week and a half ago, but it was not until the video surfaced of one of the cars running a red light that the company's permits for the cars were cancelled. Another video showed a human in the car have to take control of the vehicle several times when it oversteered into turns.

"The registrations were improperly issued for these vehicles because they were not properly marked as test vehicles," the DMV said in a statement. "The department invited Uber to seek a permit so their vehicles can operate legally in California."

Uber said it would be considering other states with laws it considered more amenable to testing the driverless vehicles, and that it remains committed to its home state of California, but did not indicate whether it would reapply for permits there.

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