Uber is refusing to pull its self-driving vehicles from the streets of San Francisco despite the state of California requesting the company does so.
On Dec.14 of this year, Uber launched its self-driving car pilot project on the streets of San Francisco, and on the same day was sent a letter from the state of California asking them to cease the project as the ride-sharing company didn’t have the proper permits.
“We respectfully disagree with the California Department of Motor Vehicles legal interpretation of today’s autonomous regulations, in particular that Uber needs a testing permit to operate its self-driving cars in San Francisco,” writes Uber VP of advanced technologies, Anthony Levandowski, in a statement.
Uber says that California defines an autonomous vehicles as one that can drive itself without the “active physical control or monitoring by a human operator.” In its self-driving cars, mostly a fleet of specially outfitted Volvo XC90s, an Uber engineer is in the front seat monitoring the vehicle at all times, ready to take control if necessary. Thanks to the need for a human operator, Uber says that its cars don’t need an autonomous vehicle permit.
The service allows Uber riders to be picked up by the self-driving cars and pay the same price for a ride as a regular Uber. Customers are also given the choice to refuse the ride if they want.
Uber compares its technology to Tesla’s Autopilot system, which doesn’t require a permit to be used in California, although both systems require human oversight. “It’s hard to understand why the DMV would seek to require self-driving Ubers to get permits when it accepts that Tesla’s autopilot technology does not need them,” said Levandowski. “We asked for clarification as to specifically what is different about our tech from the DMV, but have not received it.”
Until the California DMV can prove why Uber’s technology is different, the company will continue its self-driving car service in the state. “We cannot in good conscience sign up for regulation for something we are not doing,” finished Levandowski.