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Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Are Already Endangering Pedestrians, Bicyclists

Uber’s self-driving cars don’t follow traffic rules when turning right. Image: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

Uber is in such a hurry to dump the most expensive part of its operations—the drivers who make a paltry living, if that much—that it rushed into testing self-driving cars in San Francisco without getting permission.

The DMV sent a statement to media outlets on Tuesday that said:

The California DMV encourages the responsible exploration of self-driving cars. We have a permitting process in place to ensure public safety as this technology is being tested. Twenty manufacturers have already obtained permits to test hundreds of cars on California roads. Uber shall do the same.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday Uber's self-driving cars were being tested on the streets of San Francisco. Uber published a blog post with a convoluted argument about how the DMV's permitting process doesn't apply to its vehicles, because--for now--they have a human/backup driver behind the wheel at all times.

Then one of its self-driving cars was filmed running a red light in front of a pedestrian in San Francisco. The company blamed the backup driver.

Meanwhile Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, took a demonstration ride in one of the Uber self-driving cars and he reports that Uber is correct in that they are not ready to be released as self-driving vehicles. The car he was in made several dangerous right turns, cutting across bike lanes. It's the kind of turn that puts bicyclists and pedestrians in grave danger.

Uber told Wiedenmeier that it is requiring drivers to disengage from self-driving mode when approaching a right turn on a street with bike lanes. Meanwhile, the DMV told Uber to stop testing its vehicles on the streets.

It's hard to tell whether a car is in self-driving mode, and given Uber's arrogance, do we have any guarantee that the company is complying with the DMV order to stop?

Have you seen any self-driving Ubers? Have you ridden in one?

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