By on December 17, 2016

uber volvo

Uber Technologies Inc. have again ignored mandates from California regulators that the ride-services firm must apply for a permit to test self-driving cars, setting the table for a potential legal battle. Uber’s grounds for refusing to apply are that the autonomous vehicles are not quite self-reliant enough to warrant the paperwork.

Unveiled to the public on Wednesday, the company’s self-driving cars faced immediate criticism in San Francisco after news broke that one had breezed through a red light and another almost caused an accident. The general denunciation forced the California Department of Motor Vehicles to notify Uber to cease operations, to which it responded with a frank “no.” 

“We respectfully disagree with the California Department of Motor Vehicles legal interpretation of today’s autonomous regulations,” Anthony Levandowski, vice president of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, said on a call with Reuters.

According to Levandowski, Uber’s test vehicles, which were promoted as self-driving, are not capable of being driven without a human occupant actively controlling the vehicle while an engineer monitors everything.

California’s DMV requires that any companies testing autonomous vehicles be evaluated and given a permit before testing begins. So far 20 other companies, including Ford, Google, and Tesla Motors, have managed to obtain permits for their test vehicles while Uber hasn’t even bothered to apply.

When asked if Uber was trying to avoid the mandatory accident reports permittees are required to give the DMV, Levandowski rejected the notion. “We think that’s a very important part of building trust and understanding,” he said. “The problem is that [the regulation] doesn’t apply to us.”

He then reminded reporters that test cars include a human driver that takes control in construction zones or areas with dense pedestrian traffic. Levandowski compared Uber’s self-driving system to Tesla’s Autopilot system and other semi-autonomous assistance features that are common on newer vehicles.

“This type of technology is commonplace on thousands of cars driving in the Bay Area today, without any DMV permit at all,” he said.

This current squabble is only the most recent between Uber and U.S. regulators. However, its current brazen noncompliance in California will likely force the company to face litigation over repeatedly failing to get the proper credentials. In a letter to Uber on Wednesday, the DMV’s chief counsel said the agency will take legal action if “Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit.”

[Image: Volvo]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

52 Comments on “Uber Informed the California DMV its Rules Don’t Apply to Their Cars...”

  • avatar

    If only this had the Semi-Colon Six or whatever…

  • avatar

    Stop ’em all. Ticket ’em, tow ’em and impound them. Maybe hunt down Travis Kalanick, cuff him and stuff him. Call the local media and frog-march his butt down the perp walk.

    Make Uber defend themselves in a court of law, rather than assert Libertarian Fiat and lay the burden of proof upon the state.

    • 0 avatar

      Well spoken, comrade! That which The State does not deem mandatory is PROHIBITED! There is no bourgeois middle ground in the glorious workers’ paradise of Kalifornia!

      • 0 avatar

        You may have beaten me to it but I’d still like to add my voice to the defense of rapacious pricks throwing half-baked sh1t out to the public that permits 4000 lb. steel tanks to blow through red lights in dense traffic.

        It’s the Freedom that’s sacred.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry Buzzy — NaNaNaNaDooDoo is not an accepted defense in any court of law in the US — California or elsewhere.

        And despite assertions to the contrary, the whole Sovereign Citizen/that doesn’t apply to me rap doesn’t earn a free pass either.

        • 0 avatar

          “doesn’t earn a free pass either.”

          It seems to be working so far though. Uber’s openly ignored laws and regulations for their entire existence and so far ill effects have been minimal.

          • 0 avatar

            The DMV is just probably waiting for a catastrophic turn of events to hammer down on Uber. Never let a good crisis go to waste!

            Or they could just be building the case and giving Uber plenty of rope to hang itself.

          • 0 avatar
            jim brewer

            Yep. It’s basically their business model. You can get pretty far with sheer effrontery.

      • 0 avatar

        Everyone from Toyota to Tesla to Baidu to Bosch has bought the permits to test autonomous cars on the roads. See

        Uber is just being Uber and, well, not exactly asking for either consent or forgiveness. They’re trying to move fast and stay ahead of (or snarl up) regulation. Part of this is SV “disruption” culture, part of it is Uber’s MO, but most of it is Kalanick’s being a jerk.

      • 0 avatar

        This is a ridiculous comment. This isn’t speech or taboo behavior, this effects the lives and is an experimental program. It doesn’t even forbid it, it just makes them get a permit, which is fair. It’s called regulation so people aren’t dying at the hands of greedy corporatists (which is what all the tech bros are anyway).

        • 0 avatar

          “It’s called regulation so people aren’t dying at the hands of greedy corporatists (which is what all the tech bros are anyway).”

          Regulations mostly exist to protect established corporations.

          • 0 avatar

            “Regulations mostly exist to protect established corporations.”

            Uber has to cough up a couple of hundred bucks to get a permit. They have a market cap of several billion.

            Mr. Kalanick probably spends more on hair gel then he would have to on permits for these.

            Uber is not spending the–quite literal–pocket change this would take because, if they did, they would be accountable and would have to document incidents, provide feedback and get insurance. Uber does not like accountability; their whole business model is designed around making everyone else pay the costs, while they just skim the cream.

            They are the ne plus ultra example of rentier capitalism.

          • 0 avatar

            “They are the ne plus ultra example of rentier capitalism”.

            Shazam, you think and write good!

    • 0 avatar

      You’re also forgetting that Uber’s whole business model is one of civil disobedience and law breaking (i.e. no Taxi medallions because they’re a taxi company). I am not shocked that they’re doing this, but stopping them and impounding them is a good idea.

    • 0 avatar

      Or, like, treat them the same way as you treat anyone who “breeze through a red light…”

      San Franciscan motorists almost cause an accident, simply by being at the wheel. That’s just how they roll. They’re so philosophically anti-car, they suck at driving on purpose.

      Uber’s doing nothing a priori wrong by interpreting the regulations as applying only to cars with ore self driving features than their own currently have. Partly because Uber’s entire culture is formed around diving into legally murky areas and demonstrating that the benefits of “breaking the rules” outweigh the costs, to an extent that is easier for most people to see after the fact than during pre-trial debate between a bunch of anointed dimwits.

      But also because test cars necessarily get changed every two odd seconds. And then you’re stuck with having registered a car with a set of features, but then you’re driving around with a new version of some tech. containing a different set….

      There are already traffic laws out there, with prescribed penalties etc. Until being very explicitly told otherwise, why not just try to be as compliant with those, as the average flesh and blood San Franciscan? And if you’re not, certainly filling out reams of paper ain’t gonna speed up the improvement process any.

  • avatar

    THIS is going to be a lot of fun to watch play out over the next few weeks no matter which way it ends. Either of the two parties will be fun to see end up as the loser here. Apparently Uber has much bigger balls than George Hotz.

  • avatar

    Well, that’s why wy have courts. Let’s see who’s right. No man and no company is above the law, but it’s possible for a government agency to be wrong in their interpretation.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged Miata Man

    As much as I believe autonomous vehicles must be closely regulated through these early stages of the technology, I can’t find fault with any company or individual telling the Californian bureaucracy to step off.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      And then they came for the professional drivers, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a professional driver…

      You’re a good sheep. Screw everyone who isn’t you, right? Why should Americans be employed, anyway? I mean, employees are what’s wrong with America. They’re so greedy, wanting to be able to support their families with the work they do!

      And to think I believed you when y’all screamed about “State’s Rights”.

  • avatar

    Go get an ANSI vest then flop on the hood of an Uber and sue the panties.

  • avatar
    SD 328I

    When it comes to litigation, Uber may have picked the wrong state to have a fight with.

  • avatar

    What’s the problem here? Either their interpretation of the law is correct or it isn’t. If it is correct, change the law. That’s how it works. You go down a very very slippery slope when the government can tell you what laws were *supposed* to mean, that just means they are fluid to whoever was in power at the time.

    If the law is deficient on its’ face, then update it through proper channels so that the loophole is closed. Uber may well be douches, but that doesn’t excuse government overreach, even in the public interest at the time. Just update the damn regulation so that the democratic process isn’t circumvented.

    • 0 avatar

      I like how you say “either their interpretation of the law is correct, or it isn’t” and then fail to address the possibility their interpretation isn’t correct.

      “startup,” “tech,” and “app” aren’t cheat codes.

      • 0 avatar

        you’re right, I didn’t address that because if their interpretation is incorrect, the action (presumably) is clear, as most laws have a defined penalty process, else they’re pretty toothless laws.

        I wasn’t defending Uber here, I’m not sure how you came to that interpretation. Either they are interpreting the law correctly and the law should be changed (following the proper procedure) to ensure the law applies, or, if in fact it already does, well then, enforce it.

        Neither of these is a pass for Uber.

        But saying “well, we meant the law to apply so we’re going to act as if it does even though you’ve found a loophole” is dangerous. It implies the government can change the meaning of a law to suit its immediate needs without going through the legislative and/or judiciary processes. I would think most people would not want to see that level of abuse of power, either.

        The law either applies as written (if so, penalize Uber), or it doesn’t (in which case change law and, if Uber continues to flaunt it, penalize Uber).

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      Well, I think Uber’s interpretation has standing. These aren’t autonomous cars, they still have human drivers who are (legally) responsible for the actions of the vehicle. The car just has very nice implementations of brake-assist, lane-keeping assist, radar-assisted cruise control, and GPS Navigation, which happen to all be able to communicate.

      I think it would be very difficult to close this “loophole” without also banning regular guys driving cars with modern versions of the above systems.

      • 0 avatar

        Correct, except for the part about them testing the cars as autonomous. The difference between Uber and the man on the street, the man on the street is still in the drivers seat and liable. Uber wants a driverless car so they don’t have to pay the driver making this a for pay technology instead of a driver assist technology.

        If I recall, Google had drivers in their cars as well.

        • 0 avatar

          At some point, the cars may well be autonomous. But until they are, all the tech is doing, is just assisting the driver in charge, with driving the way he wants to drive in the least labor intensive way possible.

          It’s pretty easy to determine at which point the changeover occurs, after all, by just taking a peak at the driver position. Or perhaps, whether the driver position still has operational controls in place enabling override of whatever decisions cruise control in making.

  • avatar

    According to this exhaustive (heh) article Uber’s business model is economically nonviable:

    Basically, Uber is counting on establishing an unregulated monopoly, but can’t do it paying driver/contractors for their actual costs; hence they’re desperate to get autonomous cars.

    Also, Uber’s (theoretical) market cap is $62B, they only have $13B in actual investment.

    • 0 avatar

      Where it’s fine for cities to ignore Federal Law and become Sanctuary cities,yet screams like a r**d ape when someone wants to ignore its laws. The same California where the Governor and his cohorts are refusing to spend funds taxpayers repeatedly voted for road construction/repair because they want the roads to become so bad people will demand mass transit.

      • 0 avatar

        I think you glued this to the wrong comment, Stephen.

        Now let me have your glue stick, please.

      • 0 avatar

        For what it’s worth, the idea behind sanctuary cities is that police were tired of entire neighborhoods being unpoliceable because they were scared of the cops. It’s a pact of sorts – we’ll overlook your illegal immigrants if you report other crimes and talk to us when we’re looking for suspects.

        It’s not too different from the concept of drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants. It’s not out of a desire to reward them, but you either let them get licenses or deal with unlicensed, uninsured drivers. The latter sucks for the rest of us.

    • 0 avatar

      I just want to echo carguy67’s recommendation of this article on Uber. It’s fascinating and very informative, and yes, looks like Uber is probably doomed. And their bad financial situation is probably why they’re trying to skirt the California regs.

    • 0 avatar

      There are no sustainable unregulated monopolies.

      But aside from that, the conclusion is likely correct. Which is why Uber is very rapidly changing it’s tack from championing “unregulated” as in freedom, to rationalizing local governments regulating ride sharing, in order to make sure “unserious actors”, “pirate cabs” are kept out. IOW, Uber wants to be the new Yellow Cab. And there is, by now, way to much money dependent on them doing so, for the original Uber gang’s personal political philosophies to interfere with that momentum.

      In reality, as brilliant as Uber originally was, by now it’s a service that’s largely becoming a commodity. Driver, and passenger, reputations can technically follow drivers and passengers across ride share services. Allowing both groups to pick the intermediary with the lowest rake. Leaving Uber and it’s valuation in a position similar to a newspaper’s classifieds section, when faced with Craigslist.

  • avatar

    How does Uber do it ? Ignore taxi laws. Ignore inspection requirements for taxis. Unlicensed (taxi) drivers. No commercial driver insurance (You think State Farm is going to cover your Uber enterprise ? Read your policy.)

    Special permits for a new technology that can kill people if done wrong ? Doesn’t apply to us either.

    I’m opening a cannabis cafe in Times Square next week. OK, maybe illegal, but I will get a LOT of business and it fills a need. Oh, and I’ll hire bud-tenders so it is good for the economy. Just like Uber. So you can’t smoke indoors in NYC, that won’t apply to us either.

    There are a lot of problems with some taxi systems. NYC is a notorious example, but a business model that relies on “eff them, let them sue us” is problematic. NYC is now seeing a lot of commercials saying “NY is the last state without uber…police chiefs support uber to cut down drunk driving”. What a load of crap.

    I’ve used Uber, but it is a private car, un-vetted driver, uninsured for commercial use. Taxi laws exist for a reason, which if you aren’t in NYC, aren’t for restraint of trade.

    Oh, and bud samples will be free tomorrow in my cafe in Times Square. The regular prices, however, will surge 4x around New Year’s eve.

  • avatar

    Travis Kalanik is exhibit A of the problems caused by a business running on investor money rather than revenue.
    Travis prices his service too low as evidenced by the company losing billions this year, yet his end game is to put taxi companies out of business and to replace public transportation, so investors stay with him.
    Because of Uber’s low prices, which typically drop 10% per year, Uber drivers typically quit within 12 months.
    Travis also offers predatory lease terms to his drivers to the tune of $320 per week for a Toyota Camry.
    Uber was the defendant in 70 federal lawsuits as of April.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Screw Uber

  • avatar

    The state should yank the registrations and impound the Uber Self Driving cars for driving without a permit. Uber can sue to get them back. If they are in the right, they can resume driving. If they are in the wrong, they don’t get the cars back until they have the proper paperwork.

  • avatar

    Instead of flaunting his oppositional-defiant disorder (common to many children these days), why doesn’t Travis just go do his testing in Michigan, where apparently they just passed super permissive regs for self-driving cars? Michigan’s going to be crawling with self-driving Chevy Bolts next year, why not some self-driving Uber Volvos?

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • EBFlex: “My current vehicles have 77K, 72K, and 55K and average 9 years old and no issues. I bought them new...
  • CrystalEyes: If people think eliminating dealers will mean lower prices I expect they will be dissapointed.
  • revjasper: Between Youtube and inexpensive diagnostic tools, the DIY has gotten easier in the past few years. Picked...
  • Jeff S: I clicked on the link to the Dodge A100. Did Murilee ever finish his A100 and if so that would make a good...
  • Inside Looking Out: Americans need to haggle with dealer or give tips to enjoy car buying experience in its full....

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber