Uber’s trial of a fleet of self-driving Volvo XC90 in San Francisco has hit a snag on the first day as California regulators have called for the company to halt the test as some of the autonomous vehicles were running red lights.
According to Uber, those incidences happened when the vehicles were being operated by the human drivers and that these drivers have since been suspended. Uber emphasized that the autonomous driving equipment, software and the Volvo XC90s weren’t at fault and are working correctly. There were also no passengers on board when it happened.
Uber had deployed a fleet of standard production Volvo XC90, equipped with Uber’s autonomous driving sensors retrofitted on the roof, to ply the streets of San Francisco. However, these vehicles also came with a human in the driver’s seat to monitor and intervene if necessary, so even if you had hailed one, you won’t be sitting in it alone.
This is another point of contention with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) which insists Uber must apply for an autonomous vehicle testing permit and its vehicles shouldn’t be on the road without it. Uber, on the other hand, argued that DMV defined autonomous vehicles as something “that has the capability of operating or driving the vehicle without the active physical control or monitoring of a natural person”, and since the XC90s are constantly monitored by a human in the driver’s seat and who takes control of the vehicle on occasion, it shouldn’t need a permit.
It looks like both parties have a point to make and here’s something worth a ponder – would you consider driving a car with adaptive cruise control, collision prevention assist and lane keep assist on a road an autonomous vehicle?
It’s still early days and all related parties are still coming to terms with the reality of it. Regardless, Volvo will be putting 100 self-driving vehicles on the roads of Gothenburg, Sweden next month as part of the Drive Me development program, in cooperation with safety technology supplier, Autoliv.