back to article Uber to Cali DMV: Back off, pal, our 'self-driving cars' aren't self driving

Shrugging off a demand from California's Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain a permit to operate its self-driving cars on state roads, Uber contends it doesn't need a permit because the DMV's rules do not apply. Following Uber's announcement on Wednesday that its self-driving cars are available as a pilot test for customers …

  1. Sleep deprived
    WTF?

    Share economy?

    Isn't Uber about sharing rides? Where was this meatsack-supervised driverless car going before it decided to share the ride?

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      @Sleepless Re: Share economy?

      The car will be able to pick up people along the route.

      Here's the irony.

      Uber was created with the idea of providing a service that is supposed to be better than cabs and depending on the type of service... it would be cost comparable if not sometimes cheaper.

      It was supposed to be a way for some poor schmucks to make some additional cash with flexible hours. (There are not enough coffee shops to support everyone...)

      Now you're going to see Uber buying or leasing a self driving vehicle and putting those drivers out of work. In short, they are becoming what they wanted to replace ... a Cab service albeit without the high price of a city /county controlled medallions.

      Now that Obama is out of office... all of those 'independent contractors' will be out of a job.

      1. Orv

        Re: @Sleepless Share economy?

        "It was supposed to be a way for some poor schmucks to make some additional cash with flexible hours."

        Uber's CEO was up-front nearly from the start that he saw human drivers as a stopgap until he could deploy an autonomous fleet.

        The ultimate goal of these "sharing economy" or "gig economy" companies is fewer jobs, not more.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hmmmmm

    "The rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them,"

    So if I have a manager or a supervisor, that tells me, you could say, "controls" what I do. They also ensure that I do my work by "monitoring" me, I am not actually the one doing work? Wow, we get paid for not working, but boy, sure feels like I am.

  3. Sureo

    You would think that the driverless cars, going through red lights and doing other dangerous things, would eventually all get smashed up, removing them from the road. Problem solved.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > You would think that the driverless cars, going through red lights and doing other dangerous things, would eventually all get smashed up

      In France, Belgium, or Barcelona, you can totally bet on it. Wheel spanner assisted.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        > In France, Belgium, or Barcelona, you can totally bet on it.

        Those are not self-driving. They are stolen, and a midget is driving them to the next ferry to Marrakech.

  4. djack

    Typical Uber

    Their drivers don't work for them.

    Their self driving cars aren't self driving (unless you want to claim that the driver is working for them).

    Next week : their app isn't an app and the money you're paying them isn't paying them.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1
      Stop

      Re: Typical Uber

      > the money you're paying them isn't paying them

      Prolly, it isn't money at all... which means it can't be taxable! Doubles all round!

      Uber's corporate behaviour reminds me of that of a bolshy teenager, always trying to find a smartass way to get one-up on long-suffering parents.

      1. Just Enough

        Re: Typical Uber

        I think you'll find that technically my bedroom is actually "living space" because it is used for more than just a bed, and so your rules about tidying bedrooms therefore do not apply.

        Technically my car is not being driven by my cat, because I am supervising it. Therefore your rules on cars being driven by pets do not apply.

        1. Ian Michael Gumby
          Devil

          @ Just enough... Re: Typical Uber

          You must have a very large cat.

          Mine can't reach the pedals and thus sits on my lap steering while I press the gas and the brakes.

          And you know he was trained properly because he keeps his paws at 2 and 10.

          And I pity the fool who gets in to a road rage incident with him. He's got sharp pointy teeth and knows how to use them.

          (The spawn of Satan is well... that's because my cat sometimes acts like the spawn of Satan.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Typical Uber

      Hold on, if the car is under direction and control, then its an employee, not a contractor or any other entity... (so says HMRC)

      AC 'cos "not" under direction and control ;-)

  5. Voland's right hand Silver badge
    Devil

    Uber self driving car drives like a Uber driver driven car, news at 10

    It does not surprise me in the slightest. It surprises me even less if they feed their driver data into their AI which I bet they do.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Huh?

    What is it with Uber?

    So far as I can tell from the Eastern side of the Atlantic, the State of California has been commendably obliging (and suitably rigourous too) with facilitating on road tests of self driving cars. I cannot think of any other place on the planet where such testing on the public highway can be more easily arranged (I presume that the other like-minded states have similar processes) in cooperation with the local government.

    So why on earth would they ever want to make an issue out of deliberately refusing to engage with such a lightweight (all things considered), permissive, forward thinking and highly appropriate regulatory process? Masochism? Lunacy? A deliberate intent to lose their investor's money through paying needlessly incurred fines? A need to put their future personal liberty on the line by risking incurring injury or death in a third party through accidents happening whilst (but not necessarily caused by) their technology is being used without the top-cover provided by a regulatory blessing from an informed and content State government? Afterall, the questions in court would be something like i) was the car in supervised self driving mode at the time of the accident? Yes. Was the supervisor's hands actually on the wheel at the time, and were they in sole charge of the vehicle's operations? Don't know. Guilty, m'Lord.

    Is it perhaps that they're afraid that the State would publish the performance statistics, just like they did for Google, likely (and independently) showing their investors just how far they're from actually achieving a real, dependable self driving car?

    Unbelievable.

    1. Vector

      Uber's philosophy

      Rules!? We don' need no stinkin' rules!

      We're innovators!

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Uber's philosophy

        Rules!? We don' need no stinkin' rules!

        We're innovators!

        And we have lawyers who need something to do!!!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Huh?

      > What is it with Uber?

      I don't know, but makes them look pretty desperate.

      This company is not a story that's going to end well. I wouldn't mind if that brings down a few of the more egregious venture capitalists too.

    3. ckm5

      Re: Huh?

      Not defending them, but there is a clue in the article. The permit requires reporting on various usage and other metrics, which then become part of the public record.....

    4. Orv

      Re: Huh?

      Other players in the industry should regard Uber's behavior as a risk and lean on them to cut it out. It risks inviting more stringent regulation, and damaging public perception of autonomous vehicles at a sensitive stage in their development. Because of the potential PR and political consequences, the nuclear power industry long had the slogan, "an accident for one is an accident for all." This needs to be the autonomous car industry's motto, too.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Huh?

        @Orv, yes that's all sensible stuff. It's similar in the aero engine business too - GE, RR, PW are deadly serious competitors but assist each other to help out on safety issues. It's a mature industry that operates well for the benefit of passengers and suppliers alike.

        I think that California is also being very sensible by permitting and regulating tests and publishing test results. It's forcing the nascent self driving car industry to behave with maturity, and most importantly of all it's not letting PR control whether or not these things go on general sale.

        That's definitely caught out Google's team, whose enthusiasm for self driving has taken a dive following the publication of their test results. One wonders what would have happened had publication not been an obligatory part of the process.

        If Uber start chipping away at that edifice of rationality then, as you say, that could ruin the current beneficial status quo.

        My own point of view is that we'll never be able to develop a self driving car that is demonstrably as reliable as the best human driver (no point being as good as the average driver, most of us would be worse off). We simply don't have the means to even write down in detail what it is that a human driver actually does and can do if required. And if we can't even write that down on paper, how can we ever test a self driving car and show that it is equal to the best human driver?

        There will always be some unexpected circumstances that defeat a self driving car (anyone tried one on a dark foggy night on narrow twisty British lanes with black ice here and there, lots of leaves falling from the trees? Thought not...), and you won't want the car getting into a panic when it's got only your kids on board.

        At best we might get an elaborate cruise control thing, but then there are human factors concerns about drivers who spend very little time actually driving suddenly being expected to take over in circumstances that by definition will be challenging. Just look at the problems surrounding Tesla's Autopilot... I'm hoping that State regulators will think very carefully about that aspect.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fuck You Uber

    I am so tired of Uber acting like they have the right to ignore any and all regulations that interfere with their "innovation economy". Will someone please put one of these Uber pricks in jail and show them they are not above the law??

    1. JimC

      Re: Fuck You Uber

      It would be rather interesting to innovate a profitable second hand furniture business by removing the contents of Uber's offices when they aren't looking. Such a revolutionary approach would generate ample margins, and of course those doing the actual removal would be independent contractors, so the furniture business itself shouldn't be counted as breaking the law or responsible for what its contractors did...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Fuck You Uber

        Sounds disruptive .....innovative,,, and dynamic

        And of course relatively the furniture hasn't been removed from the office, so much as the building moved from the furniture

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The amazing thing...

    ...about those disengagement reports, is that Mercedes' has been faxed. Yes, faxed, I kid you not.

    At least it wasn't done on a typewriter.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: The amazing thing...

      What's a fax Grandpa?

      1. Ian Michael Gumby

        Re: The amazing thing...

        Its something on your multi-function printer that allows you to send scanned images over POTS lines rather than the interwebs. Its a point to point communication.

    2. DropBear
      Trollface

      Re: The amazing thing...

      ...oh, hang on, you wanted me to send over the faux reports, not send them over the fax...? Okay, my bad, but damn it's so hard to make out what you say over this cheap VoIP line...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That video of the car running the red light

    It seems to have a rather suspicious number of downvotes. With vote rigging being rampant on every site these days, and given the company's reputation, it is difficult not to cast aspersions.

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Ermmm... lawyers? insurance? Hello?

    I foresee a swarm of lawyers and a dearth of insurers on this genius non-self-driving-self-driving car thing. This gonna be gud!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cali is a city in Colombia

    California is a state in the western Estados Unidos.

    I grew up there. Everyone I know calls it California. Only those wannabes from other places call it Cali.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Cali is a city in Colombia

      "I grew up there. Everyone I know calls it California. Only those wannabes from other places call it Cali."

      Hey, but then the Mary Pop;pins subheads don't work. So learn to live with it. :-p

      And anyway, I've seen documentaries from the late 1800s and it gets called both Californ-eye-ay and Californy (think that last might have been narrated in a sing-song way by Calamity Jane).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Uber are such douchebags

    Don't get a permit to drive in a crowded city, and fire the drivers when things go south.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Uber are such douchebags

      In this case quite the opposite.

      When the car detects it is going to crash it can, within milliseconds, automatically employ the driver and so the crash is purely the fault of the independent contractor and nothing to do with Uber's self driving car

      1. Winkypop Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Uber are such douchebags

        Sadly, this may be true.

        Just prior to a crash, the self-drive management system announces to the meat-based driver "You have control" and then safely ejects itself from the vehicle to be picked up by an auto-drone later.

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: Uber are such douchebags

          given that the AI system was designed and programmed by Humans, Uber's lawyers will argue that it is Human Error.

  13. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    WTF?

    WTF?

    ".....The company argues that regulatory requirements have the potential to slow innovation...." Seriously, they want to take that argument to court?!?!?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WTF?

      Because Judgy-wudgy; rules!

    2. Ian Michael Gumby

      @Matt B Re: WTF?

      Hey Matt,

      Yes, they will take that argument to court. Why? Because they are lawyers.

      With respect to the permit, the State has put it in place long before Uber tried to enter the game. Its a way for them to control the 'driverless cars' which btw none of them are completely autonomous at this stage in the game.

      Uber's lawyers could try to argue that if they have to be permitted, then every Tesla on the road with its 'autopilot' feature should also be permitted and all of its trips logged for the public record.

      Granted neither would fly, but hey, they are lawyers and get paid either way. ;-)

      IMHO, Uber is being stupid on this... they are going to have to log the trips themselves and retain those records, if not for technical reasons, but for legal reasons too.

  14. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Disengagement

    Whilst the autonomous system may be disengaged, will the supervisor have total control?

    c.f.

    "As “master override” was engaged on the final landing attempt, however, the drone remained in its “approach” state. Its vertical acceleration reduced enough for the onboard logic to decide that it was now straight and level and therefore on the ground – despite being 325 feet above it – and commanded a nose down manoeuvre to put weight onto the steerable nosewheel.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/12/15/watchkeeper_wk006_crash_report_poor_software_laser_altimeters/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Disengagement

      > Whilst the autonomous system may be disengaged, will the supervisor have total control

      Perhaps if you bothered to follow the links in the article...

  15. DavidRa

    Wait ... your "Self Driving Uber" isn't a self-driving car

    This is the most egregious doublespeak I've seen for some time.

    Advertisement says you can order a self-driving Uber. Company turns around and says "Nah cuz, not self-driving because someone is in the driver's seat".

    Bet some of the Americans are begging for their equivalent of the Advertising Standards Council (or Board, or whatever they are this month).

    If it stops and starts by itself, changes lanes by itself and uses sensors and cameras to identify what to do, it's a bloody self driving car.

    1. Alumoi Silver badge

      Re: Wait ... your "Self Driving Uber" isn't a self-driving car

      If it stops and starts by itself, changes lanes by itself and uses sensors and cameras to identify what to do, it's a bloody self driving car.

      Damn, so my 2002 car with a start/stop function while waiting at stop lights, some sensors and a rear camera that beeps when comming closer to object and with the ability to change lanes by itself when taking my hands off the wheel is a bloody self driving car?

  16. Alan Bourke

    Like most of the 'self driving cars' noise at the moment then ...

    ... largely flim-flam that will never work in most real world applications.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Like most of the 'self driving cars' noise at the moment then ...

      @Alan Bourke

      ... largely flim-flam that will never work in most real world applications.

      You mean KITT does not exist? Next you'll say that Santa does not exist

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Like most of the 'self driving cars' noise at the moment then ...

        "Next you'll say that Santa does not exist"

        He doesn't. He's an artificially created marketing tool of Coca Cola. Father Christmas, on the other hand....

  17. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Video - BBC

    The BBC goes along for a ride in Uber's self-driving car...

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-38349800

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