CA to Uber: Get Permit for Driverless Cars or Face Legal Action

By Elias J. Atienza

The California Department of Motor Vehicles warned Uber to stop giving people rides in self-driven cars; hours after the first ones began picking up customers in San Francisco. The DMV sent a letter to Uber to stop giving the rides because they did not have a permit.

“If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action,” California DMV Chief Counsel Brian Soublet wrote to Uber in the letter.

The California DMV lawyer argued in an interview with the Associated Press (AP) that having a permit helps maintains the public trust in the technology, along with being part of the legal language between the state and the industry. Permits are required for self-driving cars in California.

“Don’t start doing this stuff. Apply for the permit. Follow the rules,” Soublet said.

Uber’s self-driving cars were still in the streets of San Francisco despite the warning.

The company argues that their cars are not advanced enough to be considered “autonomous vehicles.” The permit is required if the car can drive itself “without the active physical control or monitoring of a natural person.” Currently each car being tested has an employee behind the wheel in case the technology fails.

“We’re just not capable of doing that yet,” Anthony Lewandowski, the head of the Uber’s self-driving program said to AP.

This is where science and logic needs to trump blind compliance.”

Currently 20 companies have been issued permits by the California DMV for tests of autonomous vehicles on public roads. To be issued a permit, a company must have proof of insurance, pay a $150 fee per vehicle, and have a human driver.

Uber has clashed with regulatory agencies before in California and across the United States. Uber has withdrawn from several cities, including Austin, where voters rejected a measure to loosen regulations on ride-sharing companies there back in May.

The rideshare company has already launched self-driving cars in other parts of the country. In September the company started testing them in the city where they are headquartered, Pittsburg.

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