Uber is now in the process of getting a permit from the California DMV to resume testing its self-driving vehicles on public state roads. Uber started testing its self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs in San Francisco last year – but the state DMV ultimately opposed the tests since Uber had not applied for its autonomous testing permit prior to beginning service.
While Uber took its test fleet of XC90s on the road to nearby Arizona, where Governor Doug Ducey and regulators welcomed them with open arms – the company said at the time that it was committed to California, and reiterated that position in a statement provided by a spokesperson to TechCrunch today:
These cars are legally registered and are being driven manually. We are taking steps to complete our application to apply for a DMV testing permit. As we said in December, Uber remains 100 percent committed to California.
As Uber notes, the self-driving vehicles made a return to SF streets recently – but they aren’t employed in picking up passengers. Instead, they’re being used to map the city for improvements to local maps for autonomous driving and other navigation purposes. Uber self-driving sedans have been spotted on streets in SF since the ban by local residents, but the company also now says two of its Volvos have had their registrations reinstated by the DMV, following their revocation last year.
Uber hasn’t yet applied for the permit, as implied in the statement, and first reported by The Mercury News. But the DMV tells the Mercury that it’s working with Uber on the application process, and the company does intend to go forward.
Despite that, its views on the legality of its tests and requirements regarding self-driving testing haven’t changed – Uber’s original reasoning for not applying for the permit was that it didn’t require this special permission under the letter of the law. Still, it now appears focused on the pragmatic task of redeploying its test vehicles regardless of its position on legality, something that makes a lot of sense given the wealth of other challenges the company is currently facing.