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Uber blames humans for self-driving car traffic offenses as California orders halt

in San Francisco

 

California regulators ordered Uber to remove its self-driving vehicles from the road on the same day that the company’s vehicles were caught running red lights – violations the company immediately blamed on “human error”.

“It is essential that Uber takes appropriate measures to ensure safety of the public,” the California department of motor vehicles (DMV) wrote to Uber on Wednesday after it defied government officials and began piloting the cars in San Francisco without permits. “If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action.”

An Uber spokesperson said two red-light violations were due to mistakes by the people required to sit behind the steering wheel and said the company has suspended the drivers.

A video posted by Charles Rotter, an operations manager at Luxor, a traditional cab company, shows one of Uber’s computer-controlled cars plowing through a pedestrian crosswalk in downtown about four seconds after the light turned red. Elsewhere, a photo from a San Francisco writer showed one of the Uber vehicles entering an intersection against a red light.

“People could die,” Rotter said in an interview later. “This is obviously not ready for primetime.”

The traffic violations and threat of legal action are a significant blow to Uber in its home town, where the California department of motor vehicles has said that Uber requires permits to test the technology on its roads.

Despite that stated mandate from a government agency, Uber declared in a blogpost that it did not believe it needed a “testing permit” to launch self-driving vehicles in San Francisco, arguing that the rules don’t apply since the cars have people in them monitoring movements.

“Most states see the potential benefits, especially when it comes to road safety,” wrote Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s advanced technology group. His post announcing the Wednesday launch noted the Volvo XC90s’ “core safety capabilities”.

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