Uber is arguing that its self-proclaimed self-driving cars really aren't all that self-driving to justify its decision to forego an autonomous vehicles license in California.Uber launched a pilot program for its self-driving cars in San Francisco last week, allowing users to ride in a self-driving car that's monitored by a trained driver and engineer sitting up front.Uber first launched the pilot program for its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh in September.But unlike the Pittsburgh program, which went off without major hitches, Uber's San Francisco launch had been underway only a few hours before the DMV threatened legal action against the company.
"If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action, including, but not limited to, seeking injunctive relief," the DMV wrote in a Dec. 14 letter to Uber.Anthony Levandowski, Uber's Vice President of Advanced Technologies, is arguing that Uber doesn't need to get the license because the cars do not meet the definition of autonomous vehicles.
"When we look at how the Tesla vehicles operate, we see us operating in the same exact manner," Levandowski said on a Friday conference call with reporters.But there are a few things wrong with using Tesla Autopilot as a defense.Tesla Autopilot is at this juncture primarily intended for highway use.
Tesla's first generation Autopilot, which has gotten a few updates since its 2014 release, allows cars to automatically steer, change lanes, and merge onto highways.
There are some other convenience features consumers can purchase for extra as well, like the ability for the car to park itself.Tesla is upgrading its Autopilot system in new cars to add abilities like changing lanes without driver input, matching the car's speed to traffic conditions for active cruise control, and merging off highways.But as a whole, Tesla Autopilot really acts as an advanced cruise control with some useful parking abilities.
Its capabilities fit it squarely as a Level 2 self-driving system.Uber's self-driving system, which I had the chance to experience behind the wheel, is intended for urban driving.