Uber's self-driving car program, launched this morning in San Francisco, is experiencing a bit of whiplash. According to the Associated Press, California state regulators just announced that Uber must cease picking up passengers with self-driving vehicles until the company has acquired the proper permits.
Uber has argued that it does not need a permit as the DMV requires that companies obtain one if they operate "autonomous vehicles," which the department defines as "technology that has the capability to drive a vehicle without the active physical control or monitoring by a human operator." Uber says its self-driving cars still need to be monitored by humans, and as such don't require permits.
As noted previously, the DMV disagrees, and now it appears that folks in Sacramento are are backing the department up.
Meanwhile, The Examiner reports that SFPD's traffic division only found out about Uber's plans after the self-driving Volvo SUVs were already on the road picking up passengers. “I was unaware the cars have been released in the wild,” San Francisco Police Traffic Company Sgt. Will Murray told the paper. “Isn’t that like the headless horsemen?”
All in all, today is likely not turning out how Uber executives had hoped with their big Today show unveiling, etc. Just this morning an Uber self-driving car was caught running a red light through a crosswalk with a pedestrian in it. In response to that, video of which (taken by struggling traditional cab company Luxor) can be seen below, an Uber spokesperson told the Verge that "Safety is our top priority. This incident has been reported and we are looking into what happened."
Whether Uber, which has a history of ignoring regulations, will do as state regulators insist or keep operating their self-driving cars on San Francisco's streets remains to be seen.
Uber is already working double time on damage control, issuing a statement blaming the red-light running on human error. "These incidents were due to human error,” The Verge reports a spokesperson said. “This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. These vehicles were not part of the pilot and were not carrying customers. The drivers involved have been suspended while we continue to investigate.”
This post has been updated to include Uber's statement regarding the above video.