By on December 21, 2016

Uber Volvo Autonomous

Uber’s and its lawyers are going to meet with California’s Department of Motor Vehicles and the state’s Attorney General on Wednesday afternoon. While none of the parties have comment on the meeting’s purpose, odds are that it will include a lengthy chat about Uber’s self-driving SUVs — which have created a ruckus in San Francisco — and the company’s total unwillingness to apply for autonomous testing permits in California.

Last week, Uber Technologies Inc. royally cheesed off Golden State regulators when it deployed a test fleet of autonomous Volvos without the necessary permits from the DMV, telling the department to mind its own business as safety complaints mounted. Since then, California’s DMV has sent the ride-hailing company a letter threatening legal action if it did not swiftly comply.

Meanwhile, the newest complaint is also the oldest, chronologically.  

A witness alleges that he saw an autonomous Uber XC90 drive through a red light in San Francisco over three weeks ago and went to Consumer Watchdog with the information. The group issued a press release on Tuesday to assist the DMV’s cause.

In the release, Christopher Koff, a cafe manager, claimed that he witnessed an Uber self-driving car with an operator and engineer on board running a red while endangering cross traffic. While this sounds similar to complaints made last week, Koff reported that the vehicle’s operator clearly did not have his hands on the steering wheel — something that goes against the company’s earlier assertion of driver error. The incredibly eagle-eyed Koff also noted the incident as having taken place long before Uber’s December 14th public testing rollout.

“Uber was flouting the law and operating unsafely using San Francisco’s streets as a private laboratory well before they went public,” said John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog. “The state must shut this renegade operation down. We believe there is a violation that should be investigated.”

Uber has stood its ground, having already responded that it does not need the permits from the DMV and reiterating those claims via a December 15th teleconference.

“The regulations apply to autonomous vehicles,'” said Anthony Levandowski, the executive heading the self-driving car program.

“Autonomous vehicles are defined as cars equipped with technology that can — and I quote — ‘drive a vehicle without the active physical control or monitoring by a human operator.’ But the self-driving Ubers that we have in both San Francisco and Pittsburgh today are not capable of driving without … active physical control or monitoring.”

The Wednesday meeting, initially reported by the San Francisco Business Times and confirmed with the DMV by TechCrunch, could be an opportunity to end the deadlock and avoid a legal battle. However, it might also be an opportunity for Uber to get state approval to continue running its self-driving vehicles through red lights.

[Image: Volvo]

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12 Comments on “Uber to Meet With California Officials on Wednesday, Possibly Just to Argue...”

  • avatar

    I like Uber’s service, but my opinion of the company is still unclear.

    What I don’t like is slanted articles like this. Uber has a valid argument that they are not operating true autonomous cars yet. Furthermore, you assume that the test car ran the red light, rather than the operator/driver who was supposed to be in control. Uber claims the car in question was not part of the testing program at the time of the incident.

    I guess since the comrade-in-chief-to-be has legitimized blatant public lying, we should now assume everyone does the same, especially big, bad, evil corporations. Café Managers, however are exempt from the lying rule and only tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth… as long as it gets their name in publication. The same holds true for taxi drivers, who obviously have no conflict of interest with Uber.

  • avatar

    Among the many issues that self-driving Uber cars bring up, when one commits a traffic infraction, how will it know to pull over when the red light appears behind it? Who will show the registration, licence and proof of insurance? Who will sign the ticket? Who will appear at the traffic window or in court?
    The testing will go on for a little while, then someone will get killed, and all heck will break loose as everyone involved tries to sort out who is responsible, who is liable, who should be prosecuted and who should do the time behind bars.

  • avatar

    Whenever I read a story about Uber I always picture Cartman saying “Whatever, I do what I want!”

  • avatar

    Volvo XC90 Ubers – Are these “good” fleet sales or “bad” fleet sales?

  • avatar

    Many auto companies are testing autonomous vehicles in California. Only Uber refused to get the proper clearance. California has now revoked the registrations on the 16 Uber self-driving vehicles.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    I was under the impression that SF has been rendered a virtual ghost city in which the majority of real estate has been gobbled up by the super-rich who only occupy their domiciles a tiny fraction of the year, or speculators who sit on the vacant properties indefinitely as property values skyrocket.

    Under these (unconfirmed) circumstances, SF would make a perfect “laboratory” for autonomous vehicle development: No people in the houses, no people in the cars. It’s a match made in heaven!

  • avatar

    phildlj, I’ll just assume you’re joking. I have no idea about super-rich speculators but I do drive through SF every week day and can tell you that between pedestrians, bicyclists, muni trains and buses, not to mention darkness this time of year, its a serious challenge for even super-vigilant human beings to avoid hitting someone or something. I think that Uber would be better served by trying to get along rather than to alienate the community they hope to serve. How would a self-driving Uber car respond to a person who stood in front of it and would not move?

  • avatar

    Pwnt. Few legs to stand on when KITT is driving like it’s had a fifth of SoCo.

    Designing safe automotive technology isn’t trivial, especially self-driving technology. Uber hasn’t demonstrated great partners in their quest for it so far, nor has it demonstrated the good judgement to start with extensive proving-grounds testing. (please correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t heard anything about off-road testing) Turns out there’s a reason everyone else out there has spent a decade picking away at the problem.

  • avatar

    Meanwhile the news here in Phoenix is awash in coverage oy Uber driverless vehicles being trailered to Arizona after being booted out o California. And the Governor is on on, and everyone is on encouraging this.

    Sorry, Cali.

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