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Uber gives up on self-driving cars in California

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Ride-hailing company’s state permits will expire March 31

Hands tearing the U-shaped Uber logo in half. AlesiaKan

San Francisco-based ride-hailing company Uber will not renew its permit to test self-driving cars on California public streets, likely spelling the end of the company’s autonomous vehicle foray.

The Verge reports, “the California DMV confirmed that Uber’s authority to test self-driving cars in the state will end March 31st following the decision not to renew its license.”

The letter from DMV deputy director Brian G. Soublet reads in part:

Uber has indicated that it has suspended its autonomous vehicle testing operations indefinitely in Arizona, California, and Toronto. In addition to this decision to suspend testing throughout the country, Uber has indicated that it will not renew its current permit to test autonomous vehicles in California.

By the terms of its current permit, Uber’s authority to test autonomous vehicles on California public roads will end on March 31, 2018. Prior to resuming autonomous vehicle testing operations in California, Uber must apply for a new autonomous vehicle testing permit.

Any application for a new permit will need to address any follow-up analysis or investigations from the recent crash in Arizona and may also require a meeting with the department.

Soublet refers to the Uber accident that killed 49-year-old Tempe, Arizona resident Elaine Herzberg earlier in March, the first death attributed to autonomous vehicle technology.

Previously, Uber was one of the most aggressive advocates of self-driving cars, with founder Travis Kalanick declaring the emerging technology critical to the future of the company.

“The world is going to go autonomous,” Kalanick told Business Insider in 2016. “What would happen if we weren’t a part of that future? If we weren’t part of the autonomy thing? Then the future passes us by, basically, in a very expeditious and efficient way.”

But Kalanick is no longer with the company, and Uber’s robot car division was a pile-up of problems even before the Arizona accident.

The New York Times cites the company’s own internal communications to reveal that, while Waymo, the self-driving car startup owned by Google’s parent company, averages 5,600 miles driven by robot cars per human intervention, Uber vehicles averaged fewer than 13.

Uber may seek to renew its California permits at any time, although renewal while federal investigators continue to scrutinize the company over the Arizona crash may be a tough sell. In the meantime, Uber may choose to continue developing self-driving car technology in private on closed courses.

Sundry Photography