Anthony Levandowski, Uber's vice president of self-driving technology, wrote in a blog post Wednesday:
We understand that there is a debate over whether or not we need a testing permit to launch self-driving Ubers in San Francisco. We have looked at this issue carefully and we don't believe we do.California's rules apply to cars that are completely autonomous without a person monitoring the driving, Levandowski said in his post. Uber intends to have "safety drivers" who can take over if anything goes awry in a self-driving car, at all times.
"Our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them," Levandowski said, adding the project is in its "early days."
"It is essential that Uber takes appropriate measures to ensure safety of the public," the California DMV wrote in its letter to Uber on Wednesday. "If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action."
Uber's launch of self-driving cars in California without a permit isn't the first time the company has sallied forth without government permission. The company didn't seek permission when it launched its ride-hailing service in San Francisco in 2010.-RW
Four months after its rollout, Uber was hit with a "cease and desist" letter from the California Public Utility Commission and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The same thing happened when the company launched its carpool service UberPool in 2014.
"We don't have to beg for forgiveness because we are legal," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told the Wall Street Journal in 2013 during an interview about the cease-and-desist letters. "There's been so much corruption and so much cronyism in the taxi industry and so much regulatory capture that if you ask for permission up front for something that's already legal, you'll never get it."
As of this writing, Uber's autonomous vehicles are still cruising San Francisco's streets, despite the threats from the DMV. With self-driving cars, Uber appears to continue its modus operandi of dealing with regulators after the fact.