Uber Halts Autonomous Vehicle Pilot in S.F. – Next City

Uber Halts Autonomous Vehicle Pilot in S.F.

A journalist gets in a self-driving Uber in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Uber’s autonomous vehicle pilot in San Francisco got off to a rocky start. First came reports earlier this month that one of the company’s semi-self-driving Volvos (as of now, the cars must have human operators to take over in case of failure) had run a red light. Then state regulators sent a letter demanding Uber cease the pilot program, insisting the company must have autonomous vehicle permits to operate in the city. Uber refused, saying those rules don’t apply since the cars cannot be driven without a human monitor.

On Wednesday, Gizmodo reports, the state made good on its threat of “unspecified consequences” if the company continued to operate the cars without proper permits. The DMV revoked the 16 test cars’ registrations, saying in a statement they had been “improperly issued.” The same night, Uber announced it would suspend its San Francisco program.

“We have stopped our self-driving pilot in California as the DMV has revoked the registrations for our self-driving cars,” an Uber spokesperson told media outlets. “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.”

Pittsburgh became Uber’s first city-scale testing ground for self-driving vehicles thanks to a more hands-off regulatory approach there.

Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.

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