Self-Driving Ubers Hit The Streets Of San Francisco [Updated]

Self-Driving Ubers Hit The Streets Of San Francisco [Updated]
Photo: Uber
By Allie Pape - Published on December 14, 2016.

Hoodline readers are abuzz with the news that their next Uber driver may not be a driver at all. The ride-hailing company announced this morning that it's launching a fleet of approximately 100 self-driving Volvo CX7 SUVs in the city, as first reported by CNET

The vehicles, which will be used for UberX riders, won't be totally unaccompanied. Each will have an Uber engineer behind the wheel, who can take over when needed. Once inside, riders (the car seats up to three) can play with a touch screen displaying the route and the way the car views the road. They can also take a backseat selfie to email to themselves or share on social media.  

Passengers will be warned in the Uber app when they're receiving a self-driving vehicle, and can cancel in favor of one driven by a human. 

A promotional video for the SF launch.

San Francisco isn't the first city to receive self-driving Ubers: the company already launched a self-driving pilot in Pittsburgh, where its driverless research division is based. 

One source of controversy is that Uber hasn't gotten a permit to test autonomous vehicles with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, unlike three of its major competitors in the self-driving space: GM, Google, and Tesla.

An Uber spokeswoman told the New York Times that the company's vehicles don't fall under the state's definition of autonomous vehicles, because a human is behind the wheel, but the DMV insisted in a statement that "20 manufacturers have already obtained permits to test hundreds of cars on California roads. Uber shall do the same."

If you want a chance to see the self-driving Ubers—which are equipped with lidar, a light-based form of radar—in action, head to Third and Harrison, where the company keeps its garage. 

Update, 4:59pm: After an opening day in which two different self-driving Ubers were seen running red lights, the California DMV has sent a letter threatening legal action if Uber does not put a halt to its self-driving car program, reports the AP.

The DMV says that the company's arguments are not valid, and that it must get a permit to operate its autonomous vehicles in the state. It's unclear as of yet whether Uber will comply.