California tells Uber to stop illegal self-driving vehicle test

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California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) threatened car-hailing service Uber with legal action Wednesday telling it to stop its San Francisco test of self-driving vehicles, local media reported.

DMV Deputy Director Brian Soublet wrote in a letter to Uber that “it is illegal for the company to operate its self-driving vehicles on public roads until it receives on [sic] autonomous vehicle testing permit,” according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

Meanwhile, two reports of self-driving Uber cars running red lights in San Francisco emerged, with a video and a photo said to show the separate incidents, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

In a blog post announcing the test, Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s autonomous vehicle programme, justified the company’s decision to pursue testing in San Francisco without gaining special permissions.

“We have looked at this issue carefully and we don’t believe we do [need a permit],” he wrote. Levandowski argued that humans will be sitting behind the wheels of the cars, and can take over control at any moment.

Uber began testing its self-driving technology in Pittsburgh in the late summer. A test in San Francisco – the company’s hometown – offers a different range of driving conditions, including more bicycles on the road, more traffic and narrow lanes, Uber said in its blog post.

For the San Francisco pilot, Uber is using a Volvo XC90. General Motors is also testing its self-driving vehicles in San Francisco.

In the world-wide expansion of its driving service, Uber has time and again been accused of violating existing rules.

Uber is developing its own autonomous technology in order to avoid future dependance on auto manufacturers or possible competitors such as Google.

DPA