Uber’s Robo-Car Test in SF Is a Middle Finger to Regulators

WIRED, 14 DECEMBER 2016, FEAT. PROF. BRYANT WALKER SMITH:

Uber’s self-driving cars are now picking up riders in San Francisco—even as regulators say they aren’t allowed to, and must stop.

Unlike Pennsylvania, where in September Uber launched its first pilot program, the state of California requires that companies testing autonomous tech apply for a permit with the Department of Motor Vehicles, have insurance for the technology, and publicly report data like crashes and “disengagements”—when the human operator takes back control to make sure the car operates safely.

Uber has been testing its autonomous cars—a few dozen retrofitted Volvo XC90 SUVs—for weeks in San Francisco, without a permit and without following those rules. “We didn’t get a permit in California because we don’t believe we need one,” says Shari Doherty, a spokesperson for Uber. In a blog post, the company’s autonomous tech chief, Anthony Levandowski, asserted that the rules only apply to cars that can drive themselves without a human supervisor, while Uber’s cars have human engineers at the wheel, ready to take over if necessary.

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