Uber Refusing to Get Robot Car Permits to Keep Test Data Secret, Consumer Watchdog Says

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SANTA MONICA, CA – Uber is refusing to obtain required permits to test robot cars on San Francisco streets in order to keep test information secret and avoid public scrutiny, Consumer Watchdog said today.

The Department of Motor Vehicles and the Attorney General have told Uber that the company must get permits or face legal action. A meeting between Uber executives and the Attorney General’s staff was set for today. Twenty companies have obtained permits.

Under California law companies testing self-driving cars with a permit in the state must file reports of any crashes and annual “disengagement reports” describing when the robot technology failed and a human operator had to intervene. Both reports are posted on the DMV’s website.

“Uber has claimed they’re refusing to get permits ‘on principle.’ That’s nonsense; they just don’t want to reveal how flawed and dangerous their robot cars are,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “We’re already getting reports of their robot cars running red lights and other drivers slamming on brakes to avoid a crash.”

Disengagement reports are key to understanding the state of self-driving technology. For instance, Google’s self-driving car unit, now called Waymo, reported 341 failures in 425,000 miles of driving. The software ceded control 272 times, the company said, while the driver decided to intervene 69 times. New disengagement reports are due Jan. 1, 2017.

“We believe there are criminal violations with Uber’s flouting of the law,” said Simpson. “Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick should be arrested.”

View the crash reports on the DMV’s website here:

View the disengagement reports on the DMV’s website here:

For information on how to reach a witness to an Uber red light violation, call 310-392-7041.


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John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson is an American consumer rights advocate and former journalist. Since 2005, he has worked for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, as the lead researcher on Inside Google, the group's effort to educate the public about Google's dominance over the internet and the need for greater online privacy.

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