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Uber Dismissed Warnings About Illegal Self-Driving Tests

DMV urged Uber to comply for months in newly exposed emails.

Uber’s downward spiral continues, as yet another piece of it’s ill-fated self-driving venture comes to light. Last December, Uber began its self-driving field test with 16 autonomous Volvo XC90 taxis roaming the streets of San Fransico. At the time, it was a big deal; arriving long before many had predicted that we’d see self-driving cars on the roads. However, the experiment came to a halt just a week later when the California Department of Motor Vehicles revoked Uber’s vehicle registrations after Uber refused to obtain a $150 permit authorizing it to test driverless cars in the state. Rather than pay the fine, it contested it, arguing that there were always engineers in the car, and thus it wasn’t autonomous. In the end, Uber got kicked out of the state and moved their cars to Arizona.

Now it turns out that the drama was looming for months before actually happening. The Verge recently made a public records petition to acquire an extensive email exchange between Uber and the California DMV, where Uber was repeatedly urged to sign up for the state’s autonomous driving permits, with the DMV even offering to expedite the process to make it as fast and seamless as possible.  Anthony Levandowski, vice president at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group and the company’s top executive in charge of autonomous technology, contested the permit charge, minuscule as it was, at every turn.

Uber had to move their self-driving cars to Arizona

Levandowski is at the heart of another Uber story: He is currently being sued by self-driving company Waymo for stealing thousands of documents and blueprints as a Google employee, and using Waymo’s tech to build self-driving truck company Otto (now owned by Uber).

“In their minds, they really thought they weren’t autonomous,” sadi Jessica Gonzalez, assistant deputy director of public affairs at the DMV. “But we decide what’s autonomous. And under our regulations, it was.” So what’s the big deal? Why argue over nothing for months? Well, one reason may be that California law states that autonomous vehicles must disclose their disengagement rate, the number of times a human is forced to take control from the car and steer it manually.

source: The Verge

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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