Uber on Driverless Car Infraction: Blame the Human

Company is in talks with California regulators
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 16, 2016 3:26 AM CST
California, Uber in Talks Over Driverless Cars
In this photo taken Tuesday, an Uber driverless car waits in traffic during a test drive in San Francisco.   (Eric Risberg)

Negotiations over whether Uber must stop its newly launched self-driving car service in San Francisco have concluded without a clear resolution, according to California transportation regulators. The state has threatened legal action if the ride-hailing company continues to pick up passengers without the correct permit, the AP reports. Uber says the cars are exempt from the permit requirement because they have a backup driver behind the wheel who must monitor the car's performance. State officials had a "positive conversation" Thursday with Uber about "how the company plans to comply with state regulations for self-driving vehicles," says a spokeswoman for California's State Transportation Agency.

Video posted online Thursday showed a self-driving Uber run a red light on Wednesday, the same day the company launched the pilot program with several Volvo SUVs. Uber said in a written statement that the driver was suspended, and it attributed the infraction that took place in front of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to "human error." That was an apparent reference to the company's policy that employees behind the wheel of the cars must constantly monitor them and be prepared to take over if the technology stops working or is about to do something dangerous or illegal. Far from playing defense, Uber offered the driver's failure as evidence of the need to continue pushing ahead a technology that proponents say will one day drive far more safely than humans. (More Uber stories.)

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