The skirmish between Uber and California regulators ended with Uber loading up its self-driving cars on the back of its self-driving truck and driving them to Arizona after its car registrations were revoked.
Now California lawmakers want to make future violations to the state’s self-driving laws even tougher with a $25,000 a day fine, among other punishments.
“I applaud our innovation economy and all the companies developing autonomous vehicle technology, but no community should face what we did in San Francisco. The pursuit of innovation does not include a licence to put innocent lives at risk,” said California Assembly member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) in a press release about the bill.
On December 14, Uber launched a self-driving car pilot in San Francisco without obtaining permits from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which oversees autonomous vehicle testing in California. Hours later, the DMV told Uber to get its cars off the road or get a permit, but the ride-hailing company refused, insisting that its vehicles didn’t require one. Adding fuel to the fire, the same day that Uber’s self-driving cars began cruising the streets of San Francisco with passengers, one of the vehicles was caught on videotape running a red light as a pedestrian entered the crosswalk.
A week after Uber’s big launch, the California DMV finally pulled the registrations for Uber’s 16 self-driving vehicles, effectively ending the self-driving pilot. The company puts its cars on the truck for California the next morning.
Now California lawmakers want the DMV to have more power to enforce its self-driving vehicle laws. Ting introduced Assembly Bill 87 on Thursday, which would give the DMV the authority to revoke vehicle registrations of any autonomous vehicles in violation and authorizes law enforcement to impound them if needed. If passed, it would also give the DMV the power to fine companies operating illegally up to $25,000 per vehicle per day. In Uber’s case, if the law had been in effect, it could’ve faced a $2.8 million fine for its 16 vehicles operating over a period of seven days.
Uber told Business Insider that it remains committed to California, but does not have self-driving cars on the road at this time.
The ride-hailing company had previously offered rides to legislators, including Ting, before the release of the cars to the public. Yet the tide has turned against the company as a result of the battle with the DMV and the evidence of its car running a red light. In a statement, city supervisor Aaron Peskin said that he was “delighted” to support Ting’s efforts to “reign [sic] in dangerous self-driving Ubers.”
“These companies have demonstrated remarkable negligence in their attempts to prioritise profit over public safety, and it’s refreshing to see a state representative step up to protect our residents,” Peskin wrote. “San Franciscans are not guinea pigs and our public streets aren’t experimental test labs.”
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