Uber de­fies Cal­i­for­nia

Rideshar­ing gi­ant keeps the self-driv­ing cars rolling

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

Uber said yes­ter­day it planned to keep its self-driv­ing cars on the streets of San Fran­cisco, de­fy­ing a state or­der to halt the test pro­gram. The rideshar­ing gi­ant said it dis­puted the in­ter­pre­ta­tion by the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles that the cars re­quire a spe­cial per­mit, say­ing they had the same au­ton­omy ca­pa­bil­i­ties as Tesla cars which have an op­tional “au­topi­lot” fea­ture.

An­thony Le­vandowski, Uber’s vice pres­i­dent for ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies, said that as with the Tes­las, the cars driven by Uber still have a driver ca­pa­ble of as­sum­ing con­trol at any time. “We re­spect­fully dis­agree with the Cal­i­for­nia DMV’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of au­ton­o­mous reg­u­la­tions, in par­tic­u­lar that Uber needs a per­mit to op­er­ate in San Fran­cisco,” Le­vandowski told a con­fer­ence call with jour­nal­ists. “While these are con­sid­ered state of the art to­day, they still re­quire mon­i­tor­ing by a ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tor at all times. ”Le­vandowski said Uber did not plan on seek­ing a state per­mit and for now planned to con­tinue pick­ing up pas­sen­gers in San Fran­cisco de­spite the threat of le­gal ac­tion.

He called it “an im­por­tant is­sue of prin­ci­ple” about “un­even ap­pli­ca­tion of statewide rules.” “We can­not in good con­science sign up for reg­u­la­tion of some­thing we are not do­ing,” he said. Le­vandowski said Uber was hav­ing “frank con­ver­sa­tions” with reg­u­la­tors and hoped to con­vince them that its au­ton­o­mous cars were no dif­fer­ent from Tesla’s, which al­low a driver to turn over many op­er­a­tions to an on­board com­puter but still need a hu­man be­hind the wheel.

“We have a per­son sit­ting in the driver’s seat, and there’s also a per­son next to them look­ing at the sys­tem and try­ing to con­firm that every­thing is go­ing well,” he said. “They are able to over­ride and take con­trol of the ve­hi­cle at any time.” The an­nounce­ment by the global rideshar­ing colos­sus came two days af­ter state reg­u­la­tions said the test­ing pro­gram was not au­tho­rized. In a let­ter to Uber, DMV coun­sel Brian Sou­blet said the per­mit is re­quired to pro­tect pub­lic safety.

“It is il­le­gal for the com­pany to op­er­ate its self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles on pub­lic roads un­til it re­ceives an au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle test­ing per­mit,” he wrote. “It is essen­tial that Uber takes ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sure to en­sure safety of the pub­lic. If Uber does not con­firm im­me­di­ately that it will stop its launch and seek a test­ing per­mit, DMV will ini­ti­ate le­gal ac­tion.” Back­ers of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles say the tech­nol­ogy can re­duce more than 90 per­cent of ac­ci­dents, which mostly are due to hu­man er­ror. Since its de­but in 2010, Uber has grown into a world­wide phe­nom­e­non de­spite reg­u­la­tory hur­dles and re­sis­tance from tra­di­tional taxi op­er­a­tors. In its lat­est fund­ing round, Uber was val­ued at more than $60 bil­lion, but has racked up losses at it ex­pands and takes on com­peti­tors such as Lyft. — AFP

SAN FRAN­CISCO: An Uber driver­less car heads out for a test drive in San Fran­cisco. — AP

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