Uber’s driverless car test in San Francisco is getting off to a shaky start.
No sooner had Uber started testing the use of driverless cars in San Francisco this week than the state stepped in to block it – and an incriminating video didn’t help Uber’s case.
The ride-sharing giant, which started using driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh in September, expanded the service to the streets of San Francisco this week with some UberX automated Volvo XC90s. The company said customers could request a self-driving car for their local rides based on availability.
But California’s Department of Motor Vehicles quickly intervened by telling Uber it needs a permit to use the driverless technology – something that 20 other companies already have, the DMV noted.
Uber is challenging the DMV’s warning, however. “We understand that there is a debate over whether or not we need a testing permit to launch self-driving Ubers in San Francisco,” the company said. “We have looked at this issue carefully and we don’t believe we do…First, we are not planning to operate any differently than in Pittsburgh, where our pilot has been running successfully for several months. Second, the rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them. For us, it’s still early days and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them.”
As soon as the UberX Volvos hit the street, they started having problems, according to local media, with the cars running red lights on at least two occasions. Uber called it “human error,” blaming the problems on the engineers who were in the driver’s seat of the driverless cars, supposedly ready to handle any emergency or sticky situation. It said both employees had been suspended while it investigates.
One of those incidents was caught on video from the dash cam of a local taxi:
Readers: Would you ride in a driverless car as long as there was an Uber engineer keeping an eye on things? What if there wasn’t? Post comments below.