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As California state regulators move to rescind registrations, Uber’s self-driving cars are already being moved to a more welcoming reception elsewhere. This move came after weeks of discussion between Uber and California regulators broke down. The California Department of Motor Vehicles ordered the ride-sharing platforms’ cars off the streets of San Francisco on Wednesday.
Uber initially did not seek test registrations for its self-driving cars from the moment of launch, immediately getting them into hot water with the California DMV. The company maintained that because the cars are under the constant supervision of a driver who can take control at any time, they do not nee to be permitted as “autonomous vehicles.”
This immediately made Uber’s self-driving test vehicle program a bit of a renegade. There are quite a few other companies testing similar technology in California, all of which have proper DMV permitting. Uber’s decision to not pursue proper DMV permitting is certainly pushing the legal envelope, especially because the company promotes the vehicles as “self driving”.
The ride-sharing company quickly found a new home for their vehicles. Arizona is welcoming Uber’s self-driving cars with “open arms”, and you may soon see the cards cruising the streets of Phoenix and Tucson. No special permitting is required for Uber to use the technology in that state.
This doesn’t mean that Uber is giving up in California. The company seems fully committed to finding a solution in the Golden State. It may take a while, though, if Uber is unwilling to budge on their stance pf not obtaining DMV test permits.
Uber is also currently testing the self-driving vehicle technology in Pittsburgh. Plans to extend the project to other cities are in the works.
My Personal Opinions
I really like both Uber and Lyft. Not really partial to one or the other, but I have used Uber slightly more than Lyft. Half the guys with whom I have ridden say they drive for both companies. Although I have listened to a lot of debate about both ride-sharing services, some of which is very polarized, I am pretty content with “sharing economy” business model.
What I am still uncomfortable with are self-driving cars. The way things are headed, I see them more as an inevitability than a possibility, and the idea still unsettles me. I still feel that it will take a lot for a computer to outperform a human behind the wheel.
Things get even stickier when self-driving cars become the cause of accidents. Are the manufacturers of the technology suddenly at fault? How would you feel if a friend or family member died in a car accident caused by self-driving technology? These are some important questions we need to ask as a society before this rolls out. Back in June, a motorist was killed when his Tesla Model S impacted a tractor-trailer the software failed to register.
Uber did have at least one instance where a car ran a red light in San Francisco (watch here), as well as problems with sharp right hand turns through bike lanes. Uber blamed “human error” on the red light incident. Driving in the City by the Bay isn’t a walk in the park, and although I like to say “the world is full of stupid drivers”, I’ll still take the person over the software at this point.