Uber halts testing driver-less cars as California regulator revokes fleet registration

Uber has announced suspension of its self-driving car operations in San Francisco. The move comes after the California Department of Motor Vehicles revoked registrations of its 16-vehicle test fleet  after the company defied requirement that it get a $150 permit to operate self-driving cars in San Francisco. 

''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,'' the company said in a statement.

At the time it started the test program on 14 December, Uber had decided not to seek  Autonomous Vehicle Testing permits, despite the fact that they were not difficult to get. According to the DMV, currently 20 companies testing a total of 130 autonomous vehicles in California had already received them, as also several individual test drivers.

In addition to a $150 fee, applicants agreed to provide accident data and disengagement reports – how frequently a human driver took control from the automated system. According to commentators, Uber probably might not wish to provide that information for the public to see.

According to Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber's self-driving vehicle team, who spoke to reporters last week, such a permit was not needed for the Volvo XC90 SUVs in the San Francisco test fleet since each vehicle had two technicians in the front seats at all times.

Business Insider quoted from a letter from DMV to Uber, "Consistent with the department's position that Uber's vehicles are autonomous vehicles, 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.

"California's testing regulations for autonomous vehicles strikes a balance between protecting public safety and embracing innovation. These regulations were adopted two years ago, and they are working for the 20 manufacturers now testing more than 130 autonomous vehicles on California's streets and roads.

"Uber is welcome to test its autonomous technology in California like everybody else, through the issuance of a testing permit that can take less than 72 hours to issue after a completed application is submitted. The department stands ready to assist Uber in obtaining a permit as expeditiously as possible."