Less than a week after Uber launched a trial program in San Francisco using self-driving cars, the ride-hailing service found itself in hot water with local regulators. Unlike the dozens of other tech and car companies testing autonomous vehicles in California, Uber decided to do so without applying for a permit from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV has warned it will take legal action if Uber doesn’t halt its testing until a permit is granted.
It seems the issue is progressing to the next level, as Uber has said that it has no intention of complying. Anthony Levandowski, VP of Uber’s technology group, stated on Friday that they “respectfully disagree with the California Department of Motor Vehicles legal interpretation of today’s autonomous regulations, in particular that Uber needs a testing permit to operate its self-driving cars in San Francisco.”
He went on to explain that the company feels the DMV’s regulations don’t apply to its vehicles as they still rely on a human operator behind the wheel, and therefore the cars are no different from other driver assistant technology, such as Tesla’s Autopilot system. “It’s hard to understand why the DMV would seek to require self-driving Ubers to get permits when it accepts that Tesla’s Autopilot technology does not need them,” Levandowski added.
“You don’t need to wear a belt and suspenders and whatever else, things that don’t apply, if you’re wearing a dress. If you’re driving a car, you don’t need a fish and game permit.”
The DMV hasn’t issued a direct response to Uber’s comments, but it seems the attorney general has been notified of the matter, and the San Francisco Mayor’s office is reportedly speaking to the DMV, city attorneys, and state officials about what steps to take next. Should the issue continue to escalate, Uber could be facing an injunction or other severe action.