Uber Technologies Inc. has begun testing out self-driving cars in San Francisco that are totally autonomous. This means if you are in San Francisco and you call for an Uber driver on your smartphone’s Uber app, then you could very well have a self-driving car picking you up to take you to your destination. However, this test phase of their self-driving cars may end quickly because the State of California and their Department of Motor Vehicles say it is illegal for the company to use them in public.
The California DMV notified Uber that they don’t have a permit to operate their autonomous vehicles anywhere in the state. The DMV has even threatened to sue Uber if they continue letting their self-driving cars on the road. In response, Uber executives claimed that they didn’t think a permit was required because all of their sport-utility vehicles have an engineer and a driver in the front seats at all times. In other words, the vehicles are not fully autonomous and there are actual humans in front of the dashboard in case something goes wrong with the automated driving feature. But this still isn’t good enough for local and state regulators who say an autonomous vehicle testing permit is required, whether there are people in the front seats or not.
Uber has a history of not seeking out permits for the services they want to provide. When Uber first started in Portland, Oregon, in 2014, they didn’t have permission from local regulators to offer their ride-sharing service because all ride-sharing apps were prohibited there. However, the city has since rewritten the rules on this and they now allow Uber services in their city. But it still proves that Uber simply cannot wait for the legal issues to get worked out before they test their next big innovation.