Uber Defies Order to Stop Using Self-Driving Cars in San Francisco

(Los Angeles Times/TNS) - Uber said it will continue to operate its self-driving cars in San Francisco despite demands from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to cease its program or face legal action.

Anthony Levandowski, Uber’s vice president for self-driving technology, argued Friday that the ride-hailing company’s newest cars shouldn’t be regulated like autonomous vehicles because they still require human drivers in case of emergency.

In essence, Uber’s new fleet of taxis should be treated the same as Tesla, Levandowski said.

“It’s hard to understand why the DMV would seek to require self-driving Ubers to get permits when it accepts that Tesla’s Autopilot technology does not need them,” he said.

The DMV did not respond to a request for comment. But in a letter to Levandowski, an attorney from the California Department of Justice ordered Uber to remove its self-driving cars from the state’s roadways until it complies with state rules.

“If Uber cannot advise the undersigned that it will immediately remove its self-driving vehicles from California public roadways until it obtains the appropriate permit, as 20 other companies have done, the Attorney General will seek injunctive and other appropriate relief,” the letter said.

It is not unusual for Uber to start a new program without consulting regulators.

A self-driving truck rolled out in Nevada also caught the attention of the DMV there after a promotional video surfaced showing one of the vehicles rolling down a highway without a driver behind the wheel.

“Real-world testing on public roads is essential both to gain public trust and improve the technology over time,” Levandowski said.

John M. Simpson, privacy project director with Consumer Watchdog, was angered by Uber’s decision to flout the DMV’s demand.

“It’s an outrageously irresponsible position,” Simpson said. “The DMV should immediately seek an injunction and Uber’s executives should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible under the law.”