Uber ordered to stop self-driving vehicle service in San Francisco

Uber has been ordered by state regulators to stop using self-driving cars in California, according to the Associated Press, at least until it secures the necessary permit issued by the state to allow companies to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. The California Department of Motor Vehicles issued a statement saying Uber was expected to secure such a permit, but Uber maintained that it did not require this clearance because its vehicles were not fully self-driving and have a driver onboard at all times.

The self-driving pilot program in San Francisco is an expansion of Uber’s original launch of the service in Pittsburgh earlier this year. This city expansion featured Volvo’s XC90 SUV, a third-generation version of Uber’s autonomous test vehicle.

Uber said earlier that it did not intend to pursue this permit, the requirements for which are detailed by the California DMV on a site dedicated to autonomous vehicle operation on public roads. In a letter to Uber telling it to end the launch of its self-driving service, the DMV states that Uber will face “legal action, including but not limited to, seeking injunctive relief” if it does not comply.

Prior to the state regulators explicitly ordering Uber to stop, Uber’s vehicle was caught on camera apparently running a red light, thought the circumstances of this incident aren’t known at this time (including whether this was while the car was human or computer-operated when it ran the light). Uber told TechCrunch it is looking into this matter as “safety is a top priority.”

That means it’s only been less than one day since Uber started its test, had its first documented incident with the vehicles and was ordered by the state to stop what it was doing. This definitely looks more like the risk-happy Uber of the early days that often acted in contravention of local regulators to achieve its business goals.

“It seems to me from my reading of the law that while this [permit pertains to the] concept of an autonomous vehicle, there’s a human in it [in Uber’s case],” Uber advisor and shareholder Bradley Tusk told TechCrunch in an interview. “Beyond that, to take a bit of the excitement out of it, Uber often does something innovative and new, regulators don’t quite comprehend it at first, then it gets worked out.”

We’ve reached out to both Uber and the California DMV for further comment. The California DMV provided the following letter, which it sent to Uber earlier this afternoon.