A California lawmaker doesn’t want operators of self-driving vehicles sneaking their cars on the road without permission.
Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco Thursday proposed fines as high as $25,000 per vehicle per day for any company testing self-driving vehicles on public roads without first obtaining a two-year, $150 permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
“I applaud our innovation economy and all the companies developing autonomous vehicle technology, but no community should face what we did in San Francisco,” Ting said in a press release. “The pursuit of innovation does not include a license to put innocent lives at risk.”
The measure is a response to Uber’s decision in December to put 16 autonomous Volvos on the street in San Francisco without a permit. The company started picking up passengers, something current law does not allow, arguing the vehicles were not fully autonomous since a driver was behind the wheel, ready to take control.
The DMV responded by revoking Uber’s vehicle registrations and ordered the ride-hailing service to pull the cars off the street. Uber responded by saying it would move its testing to Arizona.
Currently 20 companies have permits for testing autonomous vehicles on California roads, with about 130 vehicles being tested. To get a permit, companies need to show current registration, proof of insurance, certification the vehicles will be used for testing only, provide a description of the technology involved and other documentation.
Ting said a dashboard camera mounted on a Luxor Cab obtained footage of one of the Uber vehicles running a red light. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition said the vehicles failed to merge into the bike lane to make right turns, putting cyclists at risk.
The San Francisco Examiner reported Ting took a ride in one of the vehicles in November and called the experience “fascinating.”
Consumer Watchdog Thursday called on Uber to release its testing information. In a letter to CEO Travis Kalanick, the consumer group accused Uber of moving its testing to Arizona so it could keep the data secret.
“Using public highways as your laboratory carries the obligation of telling the public what you are doing,” the letter said, adding it’s in the company’s self-interest to make the data public so people can get comfortable with the technology.
“Full transparency about your planned self-driving robot car testing activities is the only acceptable approach, particularly if you plan a public stock offering.”
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey last month welcomed the Uber testing, saying his state is more open to innovation than California.
The East Valley Tribune reported Thursday Uber would be setting up shop in Tempe.