California permits Uber to test driver-less technology

Ride-hailing company Uber was yesterday granted a permit by California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV),  to test two driver-less Volvo SUVs on public roads. The development clears the decks for the company to test its AV technology in California.

According to agency spokeswoman, Jessica Gonzales, regulators also approved 48 people as backup drivers who must sit behind the wheel in case the prototype cars malfunction.

The permit resolves the company's stand-off with authorities dating back to December when the DMV revoked registration of 16 Uber vehicles, which abruptly shut down the tests.

The action stemmed from a dispute over a mandatory DMV permission for testing AV vehicles, which Uber claimed it did not need as it cars needed a person to monitor them and intervene if needed.

The company argued its cars did not therefore meet the state's definition of an ''autonomous vehicle.''

Officials threatened to take the company to court following which Uber packed off its vehicles to Arizona, where it started picking up passengers last month.

Uber later softened its stand and said it would cooperate with authorities on obtaining proper permits for its test cars.

Uber said in a statement yesterday that it would not start ferrying passengers for now, as it did in Pittsburgh and a Phoenix suburb. The company also offered no details as to when the two Volvos would be driving on California roads.

Uber now joins the list of over 20 companies including Waymo, Tesla and Baidu, that had been issued autonomous vehicle testing permits as of yesterday.

According to commentators, the state's permit programme required companies to report all accidents involving the cars to authorities within 10 business days of the incident. Also, as the data was published online, Uber was probably not keen on sharing it in a competitive market they point out.