Uber made its self-driving cars available to passengers in San Francisco on Wednesday, after which California’s Department of Motor Vehicles told the company it was breaking the law. Uber has since announced that its cars will stay on the road despite legal issues.
The California DMV told the company that it had to take all of its self-driving vehicles off the road until a permit was obtained to continue. Uber, after staying silent for two days, issued a statement saying that the cars will stay on the road.
As a result, the company received a letter from California’s Office of the Attorney General stating that Uber needs to “immediately remove its self-driving vehicles from California public roadways until it obtains the appropriate permit” or else the attorney general “will seek injunctive and other appropriate relief.”
Uber argues that the system is essentially no different than the current advanced driving assistance technology being used. Using that logic, Uber believes that a permit isn’t necessary because their vehicles don’t fall within the definition of truly autonomous vehicles. The DMV defines an autonomous vehicle as one that doesn’t require a human in the car at all. Currently, there are two people required to be in Uber’s vehicles to monitor the self-driving technology and intervene when necessary.
Anthony Levandowski, who is in charge of Uber’s autonomous vehicle program, said that the company “cannot in good conscience” follow a rule that Uber doesn’t believe applies to it. The California DMV thinks differently.
Approximately 20 other automotive companies have obtained permits to test autonomous driving technology on California roads, including Tesla, Google, and Ford. Many officials believe that Uber’s position is not only unsafe, but that it is illegal as well.
“We believe their activity is a criminal offense under the Motor Vehicle Code, punishable with up to six months in jail,” said John Simpson, privacy project director for Consumer Watchdog. Neglecting vehicles costs the economy in the U.S. approximately $2 billion annually, but neglecting the law may cost Uber its reputation.
Only time will tell if Uber’s autonomous vehicles are forcibly taken off the road.