Uber Pulls Plug On Self-Driving Cars In San Francisco After State Revokes Registrations

Uber announced Wednesday evening that it has pulled the plug on its controversial self-driving car program in San Francisco after only one very contentious week of operation.

“We have stopped our self-driving pilot in California as the DMV has revoked the registrations for our self-driving cars,” reads a statement emailed to Consumerist. “We’re now looking at where we can redeploy these cars but remain 100% committed to California and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules.”

In a statement to the press, the DMV confirmed that it had revoked Uber’s 16 registrations for its autonomous vehicles in the state, while leaving the door open for the self-driving cars to eventually return after Uber complies with state rules.

“The registrations were improperly issued for these vehicles because they were not properly marked as test vehicles,” explains the agency. “The department invited Uber to seek a permit so their vehicles can operate legally in California.”

For those who missed this story because you had countless better things to worry about, Uber began a small-scale test of its self-driving Volvo SUVs in San Francisco on Dec. 14. Problem is, the ridesharing company didn’t even file an application with the state for the special permits needed to test autonomous cars on California roads.

The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles responded immediately, letting Uber know that the DMV said these Volvos were operating illegally. Uber was ordered to halt the test and apply for the permits, or face further action from the state.

Uber responded by claiming that these particular vehicles don’t need the special permits.

The company’s stance is that the permits are only required for truly autonomous vehicles that are operating without the involvement of any driver. Uber’s tricked-out Volvos were not rolling the streets unmanned; each vehicle had a person sitting in the driver’s seat ready to take control of the car, and a second person in the front passenger seat. This is the same configuration Uber has used since launching self-driving cars in Pittsburgh.

While Uber maintained in its statements to the press and the state that the “driver” in these self-driving vehicles has their hands placed lightly on the steering wheel at all time, the company’s own promotional video for the San Francisco service clearly shows the folks in the driver’s seat removing their hands while the vehicles navigate the San Francisco roads on their own:

It didn’t help Uber’s case that its self-driving vehicles were also caught on camera running red lights and rolling too far into intersections. The company even acknowledged this week that these SUVs have an issue recognizing bike lanes; a not-insignificant concern given the number of cyclists in San Francisco.

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