Uber Packs Up Its Self-Driving Cars And Takes Them To Play In Arizona

Not even 24 hours after the California Department of Motor Vehicles revoked the registrations of 16 self-driving Uber cars that had been operating in San Francisco, the ridesharing company has announced it’s found a new sandbox where it can play with its toys.

“Our cars departed for Arizona this morning by truck,” says a rep for Uber in a statement to Consumerist. “We’ll be expanding our self-driving pilot there in the next few weeks, and we’re excited to have the support of Governor Ducey.”

The statement does not specify where in the vast state of Arizona Uber will be testing these self-driving Volvos; nor did it explicitly state that Uber has the appropriate paperwork to operate autonomous cars on Arizona roads. However, the Arizona Motor Vehicles Department has confirmed to Consumerist that no special permits are needed in the state.

“In Arizona, autonomous vehicles have the same registration requirements as any other vehicle, and nothing in state law prevents testing autonomous vehicles,” the MVD explains in a statement to Consumerist. “We hope this cooperation and common-sense approach, combined with this state’s favorable climate, encourage even more companies to test autonomous vehicles in Arizona.”

It’s also not clear if Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has spoken with Uber of if the company is taking the governor’s posts on Facebook and Twitter as an invite to test the next-generation taxis in his state:

The Arizona MVD points out that Gov. Ducey signed an executive order in 2015 intended to bolster tests of self-driving vehicles in the state by creating a Self-Driving Vehicle Oversight Committee designed to work with companies developing autonomous vehicle technology.

The background on this to-do: Last week, Uber surprised the California DMV by announcing that San Francisco had become the second market for the company’s test of self-driving cars. (The vehicles have been operating in Pittsburgh for months.)

The DMV said these vehicles were operating illegally because Uber had not even applied for the necessary permits to test autonomous vehicles in the state. Uber fired back, arguing that it didn’t need those permits because the tricked-out Volvo SUVs were not fully autonomous; a person was behind the wheel at all time, even if they were not always physically operating the vehicle.

This argument didn’t win over the DMV, which yesterday revoked the registrations for these SUVs, leaving Uber no other choice but to file for permits or find another place to test the cars.

Regardless of permits, the self-driving Ubers were not operating perfectly in San Francisco. Video footage appears to show the SUVs running red lights and rolling too far into intersections. Uber itself has acknowledged that these vehicles have not learned how to properly handle bike lanes yet.

[NOTE: Updated with statement from Arizona MVD]

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