SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — In a victory for the California DMV in its standoff with Uber over the company’s self-driving cars, Uber on Wednesday agreed to halt the pilot program being tested in San Francisco.
Uber representatives had been in talks with state officials earlier in the day when the DMV announced it would move to revoke the registration of Uber’s self-driving cars. The vehicles were still being seen on San Francisco streets despite admonishment from the state Department of Motor Vehicles last week.
The debut of the self-driving vehicles drew safety concerns after a video was posted showed a self-driving Uber vehicle running a red light within hours of the program starting.
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“Consistent with the department’s position that Uber’s vehicles are autonomous vehicles, the DMV has taken action to revoke the registration of 16 vehicles owned by Uber,” the DMV said in a statement. “It was determined that the registrations were improperly issued for these vehicles because they were not properly marked as test vehicles.”
The DMV has invited Uber to seek a permit so the vehicles can operate legally in California.
“We have stopped our self-driving pilot in California as the DMV has revoked the registrations for our self-driving cars,” Uber said in its own statement. “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.”
Uber had kicked off its public pilot program in San Francisco a week ago on the morning of December 14. Hours later, the California Department of Motor Vehicles sent a letter saying that the service was illegal until Uber got a permit required for putting “autonomous vehicles” on public roads.
Uber knew about the permit requirement, but argued that its cars do not meet the state’s definition of an “autonomous vehicle” because they require a person behind the wheel to monitor and intervene if needed.
The San Franciso program launch expanded a deployment of the self-driving cars it started in Pittsburgh in September. The testing lets everyday people experience the cars as Uber works to identify glitches before expanding the technology’s use in San Francisco and elsewhere.
The incidents of self-driving Uber cars weren’t the only safety concerns raised.
“While I was a passenger and while the vehicle was in self-driving mode, it made two illegal right hand turns across the bike lane,” explained Brian Wiedenmeier of the San Francisco Bike Coalition.
Wiedenmeier told Uber engineers about the problem.
“They said they would start working on it working on a fix,” said Weidenmeier. “And then two days later, Uber announced that it was launching service in San Francisco with automated self-driving vehicle.”
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee joined in the calls from the state for Uber to stop operating the self-driving vehicles in the city without a permit last week. He reiterated that stance Wednesday.
“They should not be operating this vehicle technology on our streets without a permit,” Lee told KPIX 5.
It’s a message Mayor Lee personally delivered to Uber chief Travis Kalanik as well.
“I support the technology, but we are going to have a setback if people are not putting safety first,” explained Lee.
When asked what his response was, Lee replied, “He thought that he was still being safe. I saw those videos and that was why I was so adamant about him complying.”
The clash over the self-driving car program is not the first time that Uber and other tech companies have flouted the rules, whether it was picking up riders at the airport without permits or paying local business taxes.
In fact the city doesn’t even know how many Uber drivers are operating in the city.
“We’ve asked for data to identify exactly how many car shares there are and, to this date, we haven’t received that information,” said SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose.