The leader of Uber's self-driving car program says the ride-hailing service he launched this week in San Francisco will continue despite regulators' objections.
California transportation officials have demanded that Uber stop picking up passengers in a handful of Volvo SUVs tricked out with a suite of sensors that let the cars steer, brake and accelerate.
Uber's Anthony Levandowski told reporters Friday that he disagrees with the state's demand to suspend operations until it gets a special permit because the cars aren't subject to California's self-driving regulations.
“We respectfully disagree with the California Department of Motor Vehicles legal interpretation of today’s autonomous regulations,” Levandowski said, adding that Uber wasn't trying to skirt accident disclosures.
“We think that’s a very important part of building trust and understanding. The problem is that (the regulation) doesn’t apply to us.”
Levandowski says Uber doesn't need a permit because a backup driver is behind the wheel monitoring the car. He says that means the Volvos aren't "autonomous vehicles" under state law.
"It’s hard to understand why the DMV would seek to require self-driving Ubers to get permits when it accepts that Tesla’s autopilot technology does not need them. We asked for clarification as to specifically what is different about our tech from the DMV, but have not received it."
Nor is it clear why the DMV is requiring that we apply for a permit now, when they’ve known that Self-Driving Ubers have been on the streets of San Francisco over a month? We have been safely driving self-driving Ubers in the same manner in Pittsburgh for months, where policymakers and regulators are supportive of our efforts," Levandowski said.
The state threatened legal action in return, asking Uber Friday evening to "adhere to California law and immediately remove" the self-driving cars from the state's roadways until the company complies with all applicaple statues and regulations.