Calif. Orders Uber To Halt Self-Driving Car Rides

SAN FRANCISCO (CBSLA.com/AP)  —  California regulators warned ride-hailing company Uber on Wednesday that it would face legal action if it did not immediately stop giving people in San Francisco rides in self-driving cars — until it receives permission from the state.

Uber started a public pilot program in the morning, and hours later, the California Department of Motor Vehicles sent a letter saying that the service was illegal until Uber got a permit required for putting “autonomous vehicles” on public roads.

Uber knew about the permit requirement but argued that its cars do not meet the state’s definition of an “autonomous vehicle” because they require a person behind the wheel to monitor and intervene if needed.

This comes as a San Francisco taxi cab company recorded video of an Uber self-driving car apparently running a red light Wednesday, according to CBS San Francisco.

In response to the video, Uber issued the following statement:

“This incident was due to human error. This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. This vehicle was not part of the pilot and was not carrying customers. The driver involved has been suspended while we continue to investigate.”

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, DMV Chief Counsel Brian Soublet wrote that Uber “must cease” deploying the cars or face unspecified legal action.

“If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action,” the letter said without elaborating.

The Wednesday launch in Uber’s hometown expands a deployment of the cars it started in Pittsburgh in September. The testing lets everyday people experience the cars as Uber works to identify glitches before expanding the technology’s use in San Francisco and elsewhere.

Making the distinction on the definition of an autonomous vehicle is in line with Uber’s history of testing legal boundaries. Although the company has been around less than a decade, it has argued with authorities around the world about how much of its drivers’ histories should be covered in background checks and whether those drivers should be treated as contractors ineligible for employee benefits.

CBS2’s Rachel Kim spoke to Jamie Court, the president of Consumer Watchdog.

He thinks the cars should be impounded. Court think the cars are unsafe and believes the CEO should be held accountable for putting cars on the road “that aren’t licensed.”

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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