Uber’s self-driving cars have been given the proverbial red light in San Francisco barely after they started testing them. The Department of Motor Vehicles claims the service is violating State law by not acquiring a permit.
The alternative taxi service has countered this, claiming that all self-driving cars will be accompanied by actual human beings. This might not be enough to keep the State of California from continuing to pursue legal action.
The idea behind self-driving cars being used for app-based services is that you can order the taxi service to come when you need it. Unlike regular taxis, this new service doesn’t force you to wait until the drivers are done with the most recent fare, and they offer competitive rates.
A major problem with said rates is that Uber had faced a strike when it was discovered that drivers weren’t going to earn enough money to live on, especially in major cities. The cost of gas may have been a factor, as recent problems with a gas line in Alabama forced many stations to raise their prices and order it from overseas or face a second shortage in the same year. The second event was a series of explosions which happened to occur at a complicated juncture in the nationwide Colonial supply line, and it was unclear how long it would take to fix the problem.
Uber’s possible solution was to start testing self-driving cars in major cities like San Francisco, eliminating the need for a paid driver. Of course, they knew there would be problems giving a computer that much control right away, and have stated that there will be a human in the vehicle as a backup in case something goes wrong.
Something did go wrong, as several reports have come in about the vehicles not respecting red lights at intersections. How this happened with people still potentially controlling them is unclear.
Uber advisor and shareholder Bradley Tusk told Tech Crunch that it’s more of a factor that the legal system can’t understand what is going on.
“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]. 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.”
If true, it could still be a while before the San Francisco Department of Motor Vehicles sees fit to lighten their restrictions. The fact that Uber cars with people in them are running red lights, as reported by CBS of San Francisco, and as recorded by various sources, could complicate the issue.
The issue of the red light glitch hit shortly after Uber launched their self-driving cars in the streets on Wednesday morning. Only a few hours in, a Luxor Cab recorded footage of one of the service’s Volvo SC90 SUV’s continuing through an intersection after the taxi had stopped for the red light.
A second incident happened to Twitter user Annie Gaus, who stated that the Lyft car she was in had almost been hit by an Uber car as her ride went through the intersection. The Uber car had stopped at the intersection, but it was clearly too far in to be legal.
If there are humans in these vehicles, then why are they suddenly ignoring red lights?
Uber has released another statement claiming that offending cars without customers in them will have their drivers suspended, as it was “due to human error.” They added to the statement, insisting that self-driving cars are the way to fix the problem.
The San Francisco Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t care, and by Wednesday afternoon they ordered all self-driving cars to stop service until Uber gains the necessary permit. Until then, Uber drivers might want to be more careful about traffic laws, especially regarding red lights, just in case.
[Featured Image by Jeramey Lende/Shutterstock.com]