Last year one of Uber’s self-driving Volvo’s ran a red light near San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art. The company claimed that the incident was due to human error and they suspended the employee who had been riding in the vehicle at the time. Uber’s own internal documents and information from two anonymous Uber employees have revealed that the self-driving vehicle was actually in the wrong. Uber’s mapping program failed to recognize six red lights in San Francisco and, “in this case, the car went through a red light”.
Uber was kicked off the streets of California this past autumn due to the fact that the company had started testing its self-driving cars before receiving an autonomous vehicles driving permit. California requires that self-driving vehicles be tested by the Department of Motor Vehicles before they go out on the road. Other companies have complied, however, Uber insisted that it did not need a permit, since the vehicles were not “fully” autonomous. Uber refused to apply for a permit, but was “open to having the conversation”. It turns out that the California DMV was not “open” to smoke-filled back-room deals and stuck to their guns.
The red light incident was one of the reasons Uber did not receive a permit in California. The vehicles also had a difficult time handling bike lanes. When in self-driving mode, Uber’s vehicle tend to make “unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane”. The blind spot is the self-driving car’s number one cause of collision. Many blame Anthony Levandowski, Uber’s driverless car operation leader at the time, for his overeagerness. Levandowski had been quoted saying, “was eager to commercialize a self-driving vehicle as quickly as possible”.