Uber's Self-Driving Cars Leave Hometown for Warmer, and Friendlier Climates

California's loss is Arizona's gain. That's how Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey see's Uber's decision on Thursday to haul their fleet of self-driving Volvos from San Francisco to Arizona after the company refused to secure the necessary operating permits.

3 minute read

December 27, 2016, 6:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

"Uber is moving its self-driving pilot project to Arizona, one day after the California Department of Motor Vehicles ordered the autonomous vehicles off the roads in San Francisco," reports Trisha Thadani for the San Francisco Chronicle. 

A week earlier, the DMV had sent Uber a letter ordering the transportation network company to cease operation of its self-driving cars until it complies with regulations, meaning it had to secure an autonomous vehicle testing permit. The state Attorney General's office chimed in as well.

In the above KTVU news broadcast, former Chronicle columnist Chuck Nevis speculates why Uber chose not to comply with DMV's order to properly register the vehicles, and ponders the effect the move will have on San Francisco and Oakland, where it is based and expanding to, respectively.

"It seems strange, doesn't it, because the city said all you have to do is buy a permit; we'll give it to you in 72 hours, and you are in business," Nevius tells Ted Rowlands of KTVU. "But I think the deeper issue was that Uber didn't want to share the data that would be gathered."

Nevius indicates that there would need to be an incident report for when the driverless car went through the redlight, "and you saw the uproar that caused." Rowlands adds, "Uber went up against the SF Bike Coalition — not a good deal — might as well go up against the mob," referring to the group's political strength.

Uber's Vice President of Engineering, Anthony Levandowski, provided this statement to explain why they refused to secure the permits the DMV required for their autonomous vehicles.

California's loss is Arizona's gain?

A 19-photo slide gallery in the article shows the automated vehicles loaded on a flatbed truck for their journey to Arizona. While the destination city wasn't known, the cars were reported to have been seen in Phoenix.

“Phoenix is excited to be an Uber-friendly city, and we are excited that they are expanding here,” said Robbie Sherwood, a spokesman for the Phoenix mayor’s office.

"In a statement Thursday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called California’s regulations burdensome and said Arizona welcomes Uber’s self-driving car test with 'open arms,'" adds Thadani.

“While California puts the brakes on innovation and change with more bureaucracy and more regulation, Arizona is paving the way for new technology and new businesses,” he said.

No special regulations for autonomous vehicles in Arizona.

Ducey signed an executive order in 2015 that supports the testing and operation of self-driving cars in Arizona. Google began testing its autonomous cars in several cities there this year.

For self-driving vehicles in Arizona, “there are no special permits or licensing required,” according to the state’s Department of Transportation. “In Arizona, autonomous vehicles have the same registration requirements as any other vehicle, and nothing in state law prevents testing autonomous vehicles.”

Academic relationships forged, as Uber did in Pittsburgh.

"Uber said last year that Tucson and the University of Arizona will become “the next home to our Uber mapping test vehicles.”

Uber's relationship with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where Uber first began testing of self-driving vehicles in September, turned out to be stormy. It "partnered with one of the most advanced university robotics labs in the US last year—only to immediately poach a third of its top scientists and its director," writes Jordan Pearson for Motherboard. 

Speaking of regulations....

This isn't the first time the Grand Canyon State and the Golden State have found themselves on opposite sides of regulation of an industry. A year after California made history by banning the single-use disposable bag (and voters upheld the ban in a referendum in November, bankrolled by the plastics industry), Gov. Ducey signed a bill that outlawed local governments from banning single-use plastic bags


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