A week after boldly defying California officials and arguing that they had every right to test their self-driving vehicles with paying customers inside, Uber has relented and pulled its self-driving cars off the streets following a meeting Wednesday with representatives from the state attorney general's office and the DMV. The SF Business Times is reporting that Uber issued a surrender statement shortly after the meeting and after a week of national press that has painted the company as operating without respect for the law.
Uber has argued since last Wednesday's launch that their vehicles are not entirely autonomous, and therefore shouldn't be subject to state laws trying to align their still-under-testing self-driving software is no different than Tesla's, which has been allowed to operate on streets and highways nationwide because it depends on a driver being (theoretically) always alert and in control.
State regulators have been trying to get Uber to stop thwarting the law since the day of the launch in San Francisco, and they finally succeeded at today's sit-down apparently by revoking the registrations for the 16 vehicles themselves.
As The Verge notes, Uber apparently didn't want their new self-driving to be designated as test vehicles, and refused to pay a $150 fee per vehicle to register them as such.
Uber issued a statement saying, "We have stopped our self-driving pilot in California as the DMV has revoked the registrations for our self-driving cars. We’re now looking at where we can redeploy these cars but remain 100 percent committed to California and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules."
I guess that means they're looking for a city outside California that will welcome this experiment?
And as for the registration issue, the DMV issued this clarification, per the Business Times:
The DMV has taken action to revoke the registration of 16 vehicles owned by Uber. It was determined that the registrations were improperly issued for these vehicles because they were not properly marked as test vehicles. Concurrently, the department invited Uber to seek a permit so their vehicles can operate legally in California.
DMV director Jean Shiomoto also said in their letter to Uber, "The DMV fully supports the advancement of autonomous technologies," but added that such technology, "must be tested responsibly."
Mayor Ed Lee, who was threatening legal action against the company, issued a statement saying, "We are pleased to hear that the DMV took enforcement action, which I strongly supported; consequently, Uber has removed its unpermitted self-driving vehicles from San Francisco’s streets." He added, "I have always been a strong supporter of innovation and autonomous vehicle development and testing, but only under conditions that put human, bicyclist and pedestrian safety first."
And meanwhile, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition which contended that the cars did not adequately detect cyclists in bike lanes when trying to make right turns was taking credit for the turnaround in a press release, saying, "Thank you to the hundreds of San Francisco Bicycle Coalition members who spoke up to tell Uber to stop its irresponsible pilot. State and local officials heard you loud and clear."
Throughout the week, Uber's stunt has garnered plenty of national press that hasn't been too positive especially after the day of the launch quickly yielded video evidence of an Uber self-driving vehicle running a red light on Fourth Street in San Francisco.
And for now, this looks like a wager that did not pay off.