Uber to seek permit for restarting self-driving pilot in California

Last year, DMV revoked registration of 16 Uber self-driving cars for lacking the proper permits

Reuters March 03, 2017
A fleet of Uber's Ford Fusion self driving cars are shown during a demonstration of self-driving automotive technology in Pittsburgh, U.S., September 13, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO: Uber Technologies Inc said on Thursday it plans to comply with California regulations and seek permits to put its self-driving cars back on the state's roads, an about-face following the company's legal spat with state officials in December.

Two of Uber's autonomous cars are already wheeling around San Francisco, but they are being driven manually while the company is "taking steps to complete our application to apply for a DMV testing permit," an Uber spokesperson said.

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The California's Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed it has held discussions with Uber to assist the company in applying for the self-driving testing permit. Uber has not formally submitted the application, DMV spokesperson Jessica Gonzalez said.

Acquiring the proper permit would allow Uber to restart its self-driving pilot in San Francisco, which was shuttered after just a week late last year.

The state DMV requires that any company testing autonomous vehicles on public roads receive a permit. At least 23 other companies exploring self-driving cars, including Alphabet's Google, Tesla Motors and Ford Motor Co, have obtained California DMV permits.

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But Uber defied those rules in December, attempting to launch a self-driving pilot program in San Francisco without a permit. Uber argued that its cars were not capable of driving "without ... active physical control or monitoring," as California law defines autonomous vehicles, so did not require a permit.

Uber's cars require monitoring by a person in the driver's seat. An engineer also sits in the passenger seat.

The pilot was short-lived. The DMV revoked the registration of 16 Uber self-driving cars for lacking the proper permits a week after Uber put them on the road. The California Attorney General also warned Uber it would take legal action.

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Immediately after the DMV revoked Uber's car registrations, Uber put its self-driving fleet on trucks and brought them to Arizona, where companies are not required to obtain any special permits for self-driving cars.

Those cars have not been moved to San Francisco, Uber said Thursday.

The San Jose Mercury News reported Uber's plan to apply for a state permit earlier Thursday.

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