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Uber self-driving cars coming back to San Francisco

After a winter sojourn in Arizona, self-driving Uber vehicles plan a return

Self-driving cars loaded onto the back of trucks, departing.
Leaving in December.

Back in December, the state put the brakes on Uber’s self-driving car tests in San Francisco. Although robo-Ubers ran lights and turned into bike lanes in a way that suggested city streets confounded their sensors, the dust-up wasn’t the technology itself.

Rather, as is often the case with Uber, it was a question of regulation. The company’s cars weren’t permitted for test drives in public. As usual, Uber’s position was that no permits were required.

Eventually the tech company responded in dramatic and petty fashion last December by packing up their fleet and moving to Arizona.

But after the company wandered in the desert in exile for a few months, KTVN reports that the Department of Motor Vehicles finally gave its blessing to the experimental vehicles this week, albeit only for two cars, which the company says will not yet be servicing passengers.

Self-driving Uber cars are already responding to rider hails in Pittsburgh and Phoenix. As with other companies testing automated vehicles on public streets, Uber keeps a backup driver in the car who can take over if there’s a problem.

Nobody at Uber was immediately available for comment.

Once again, another standoff between Silicon Valley and Sacramento has ended with some simple unspooling of red tape.

Uber isn’t the only company using our streets to test out self-driving vehicles. More than two dozen companies now have permits to test autonomous vehicles in California.

“Just put it reverse and drive all the way back.”