Uber’s continued insistence that it doesn’t require a permit to test its San Francisco-based self-driving vehicles is angering city officials. Now, residents are also losing patience with the ride-hailing company after it admitted there was a “problem” with the way the SUVs were crossing bike lanes.
Last week, less than one day after Uber expanded its self-driving vehicle pilot program from Pittsburgh to San Francisco, the California DMV ordered the company to stop operating the fleet because it never registered to test the technology on state roads.
Uber claims it doesn’t need a permit as its cars have a person behind the wheel at all times monitoring the system, therefore they can’t be considered fully autonomous. Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s autonomous vehicle program, called the company’s stance “an important issue of principle.”
“You don’t need a belt and suspenders… if you’re wearing a dress,” he said. It seems the DMV’s threat of legal action still hasn’t caused Uber to change its mind.
However, after numerous reports that its not-quite-autonomous vehicles are ignoring the rules of the road, it seems Uber isn’t finding much support among the public. In addition to running red lights, failing to stop for pedestrians, driving through stop signs, and making unsafe turns, the SUVs are a huge danger for the city’s thousands of cyclists.
An article published by Brian Weidenmeier, executive director of San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), warns that when the vehicles are in self-driving mode, they are cutting directly across bike lanes when making right turns. State law mandates that drivers merge with the lane before making a turn to avoid hitting cyclists who may be traveling forward.
“It’s one of the biggest causes of collisions,” said SFBC communications director Chris Cassidy. He added that Uber was notified of the problem last week, and, despite assuring the SFBC that a fix was on its way, the company started the self-driving trials without one being implemented.
"The potential for autonomous vehicle technology is exciting, but knowingly rolling out unpermitted, unsafe vehicles shows a blatant disregard for people's safety," said Cassidy.
Some officials believe that Uber will give in to the pressure and apply for a permit next month. As noted by The Register, this would ensure the firm avoids having to hand over 2015 data to state regulators.