Uber goes ahead with unsanctioned driverless tests

An Uber self driving car in San Francisco, California. Image courtesy of Uber Technologies.
An Uber self driving car in San Francisco, California. Image courtesy of Uber Technologies.

Ride sharing company Uber Technologies has continued to press ahead with tests of its driverless cars in California despite a lack of regulatory approval.

Last week the company announced that it would continue testing these vehicles in the state in the face of a ‘cease and desist’ letter delivered by the Californian state government.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles says that until Uber receives a permit allowing it to conduct trials of these vehicles, it is legally banned from doing so.

Other companies such as Google and Tesla Motors have obtained such a permit, and already test these vehicles on Californian roads.

Uber in response stated that they did not believe they needed to comply with the law, as their vehicles always had a human driver at hand.

“…the rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them. For us, it’s still early days and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them,” the company stated in a blog post.

The company also accused California of “slowing innovation” and not recognising the potential road safety benefits of self-driving cars.

Uber pointed to successful tests of these vehicles which it has been carrying out in Pittsburgh since September, as a model for how other states should deal with this regulatory issue.

Bicycle blues

Yesterday however, California’s charge that Uber’s vehicles weren’t yet ready for testing was given further ammunition.

According to reporting by The Register, Uber’s self-driving vehicles are incapable of following the law when it comes to cyclists.

Specifically, they do not correctly merge into bike lanes when making right turns, thus putting cyclists at risk.

While Uber itself does not claim its cars are fully autonomous, these claims could hurt the company’s attempts to have its vehicles approved for testing.

Uber itself is pushing ahead with driverless cars as one of several ways of replacing its vast network of paid human drivers.

Currently the company reportedly operates at a multi-billion dollar per year loss, and needs to rapidly find ways to cut costs in order to find a path to profitability.