Tech/taxi company Uber has refused to remove its driver-less cars from the roads of San Francisco after being ordered to halt the service by the California department of motor vehicles (DMV). The order came as the California DMV stated the Uber is acting outside of the law by not obtaining the necessary permits to run the service. So far twenty companies have been approved but Uber have so far ignored calls to become approved.
So far Uber has taken a strong position by openly refusing to comply with the laws of the state, claiming that they haven’t broken any rules. Though this assertion has drawn disapproval from many, as they believe that Uber feels that laws simply do not apply to them. This mettle will be tested as the DMV have issued the company with a letter threatening legal action if they do not comply.
They believe that as the system is not, and cannot be operated remotely that it doesn’t need the permit. They claim the system is like Tesla’s autopilot which doesn’t need a permit. But ironically Tesla is one of the twenty companies that have voluntarily been approved.
Uber haven’t had a great start to life for the autonomous vehicles, as two of their cars have been spotted running red lights in San Francisco, which has, since Wednesday become Uber’s second city with the vehicles after their home of Pittsburgh where the vehicles are developed. The company has blamed the two incidents on “human error” and claimed that the cars were not to blame. The vehicles are still driven by drivers, but have the technology available to drive themselves. Many worry that this will spell the beginning of the end for taxi’s and their drivers as the push towards self driving cars pushes on relentlessly.
Indeed San Francisco mayor Ed Lee has warned Uber to remove the cars in a phone call with the company. He stated that Uber had risked the safety of those in the city, and weren’t being a “respectful civic partner”. Lee himself is known as a friend to the tech community and speaking out against Uber means he must have some concern for the safety of the citizens of the tech savvy city.
The resulting test case could indeed be very interesting, as the legal boundaries are still very unclear in such a new technology. With both sides not being prepared to back down, we may have an answer sooner than we think.
Joseph is a 34 year old freelance writer from London. He has a wide interest in politics and specialises in the subject. He's also a blog writer in his spare time.