It’s day one of Uber’s self-driving car test in San Francisco, and already trouble is brewing amidst reports of vehicles running red lights and California regulators threatening legal action.
The ride-hailing giant on Wednesday rolled out a fleet of self-driving cars, but ignored the state’s permit requirement. Uber agued that its cars do not meet the state's definition of an "autonomous vehicle'' because they are foolproof: a person will always be behind the wheel to monitor and intervene if needed.
However, that fail-safe, well, failed hours aftert the big launch when Uber blamed the car’s driver for running a light in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, the San Francisco Examiner first reported.
A company spokesman said in a statement “This incident was due to human error. This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. This vehicle was not part of the pilot and was not carrying customers. The driver involved has been suspended while we continue to investigate.
Dashcam footage obtained from taxi company Luxor Cab San Francisco shows a slew of cars careening by in the final seconds of a yellow light on Third Street. One even scrapes by just as the light turned red.
The taxi stopped at the light, but a few seconds later, an Uber self-driving car cruised past the already red light. This, after a man had stepped onto the pedestrian crossing.
Earlier in the day, San Francisco-based writer and producer, Annie Gaus, tweeted: “Just passed a 'self-driving' Uber that lurched into the intersection on Van Ness, on a red, nearly hitting my Lyft.”
Her next tweet says, “(Not enough time to get a good shot, but...whoops!)”, and shows an Uber self-driving car that came to a stop partially into the intersection.
The San Franciso Examiner also reported that the city police department’s traffic division was in the dark of Uber’s plan to debut its self-driving fleet.
Meanwhile, hours after the self-driving cars took to San Francisco’s streets, the California Department of Motor Vehicles ordered Uber to cease the pilot program until it obtained the necessary permit.
Consumer Watchdog is urging the San Francisco Police Department to impound Uber’s recalitrant robot cars, and City Attorney Denns Herrera to file criminal charges against the company’s CEO Travis Kalanick.