Uber to Meet With California Officials on Wednesday, Possibly Just to Argue

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
uber to meet with california officials on wednesday possibly just to argue

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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2 of 12 comments
  • Anomaly149 Anomaly149 on Dec 23, 2016

    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.

  • Amca Amca on Dec 23, 2016

    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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