| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Dec 14 Uber has rolled
out its self-driving car fleet in its hometown of San Francisco,
despite lacking the proper permit that state regulators say is
Starting Wednesday, riders who request an UberX, one of the
company's budget ride options, may be matched with a
self-driving Uber. It is unclear how many of these cars Uber has
in San Francisco.
Launching the program kicked off a battle with the
California Department of Motor Vehicles, which said on Tuesday
that Uber does not have a permit to test autonomous vehicles on
California roads, and demanded the company follow the permitting
process that is in place.
"Twenty manufacturers have already obtained permits to test
hundreds of cars on California roads. Uber shall do the same,"
the agency said in a written statement.
Uber's self-driving cars have been seen around San Francisco
since at least September.
Uber argues that its cars are not able to drive without a
person monitoring them - a driver and an engineer are in the
front seats to take over frequently in situations such as a
construction zone or pedestrian crossing - so the California law
does not apply. California defines autonomous vehicles as cars
that have the "capability" to drive "without the active physical
control or monitoring of a natural person."
"All of our vehicles are compliant with applicable federal
and state laws," a spokeswoman said.
In a company blog post, Uber called on California to take a
more "pro-technology" approach to regulating autonomous cars.
"Several cities and states have recognized that complex
rules and requirements could have the unintended consequence of
slowing innovation," Uber said. "Our hope is that California,
our home state and a leader in much of the world's dynamism,
will take a similar view."
Uber said the San Francisco program will mimic its pilot in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where three months ago Uber unveiled
its secretive work on autonomous cars for the first time to the
public. The company started with just four self-driving cars
available to Pittsburgh passengers, although it had a fleet of
more than a dozen for testing.
At that time, engineers at Uber's Advanced Technologies
Center in Pittsburgh, where much of the company's research on
autonomous cars takes place, emphasized that Uber was not
attempting to build a driver assistance system. Rather, Uber had
its sights on building fully autonomous cars, with no driver
Uber's San Francisco fleet features the Volvo XC90, an
upgraded model from the Ford Fusions that were unveiled in
(Editing by Alistair Bell)