California’s attorney general Kamala Harris has threatened legal action against Uber unless they comply and “immediately” remove self-driving vehicles from the roads in San Francisco.
The threat was released by the attorney general in a letter released to the public shortly after Uber stated it would defy the states regulations out of principle.
Only 20 companies have been given approval to test self-driving cars in California and Uber had not been included due to the company refusing to abide by the same rules and regulations as its rivals.
The DMV had ordered Uber to either obtain a permit or remove its self-driving vehicles from the road on its first day on the trail which they had started without permission.
The letter released by the attorney general has warned that should Uber not comply with the rules they will “seek injunctive and other appropriate relief”.
Uber has made it clear that they have no intention of backing down as the head of Uber’s autonomous vehicle programme, Anthony Levandowski said that the rules did not apply to the fleet due to the particular form of technology used in the vehicle.
He then went on to say, “We cannot in good conscience sign up to regulation for something we’re not doing,”
“It’s an important issue of principle about when companies can operate self-driving cars on the roads and the uneven application of state-wide rules across very similar types of technology.”
Levandowski argued that Uber’s fleet were not capable of operating without being controlled/monitored by a human operator and therefore they did not need to seek a testing permit. He went on to compare the technology to Tesla’s autopilot feature which the DMV deemed they did not need a permit for.
In May of 2016 the first known death caused by a self-driving car took place in a Tesla vehicle that was using auto pilot.
Uber first rolled out the fleet of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh back in August, the home of Uber’s self-driving-car facility. The programme was met with enthusiasm by local officials however the same cannot be said about San Francisco.
According to the San Francisco Examiner, the police departments traffic division was not given the heads up on Uber’s programme until after it had begun. Two of the Uber vehicles had been observed running red lights on the first day of the pilot tests however Uber has advised that the drivers involved had been suspended.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has also highlighted concerns with the programme as Brian Wiedenmeier posted about them in a blog post. Wiedenmeier had been given an invitation to take a ride in one of the vehicle prior to the launch however the journey only deepened his concerns with the vehicle ability to operate safely on the streets that they share with bicyclists.
The current conflict has furthered the argument that critics class as unethical and illegal tactics that the company uses in order to grow their business.