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Self-Driving Uber Blows Through Red Light On First Day In San Francisco

Uber blames it on human error and suspends the driver. State demands tests stop.

15/12/2016 5:56 AM IST | Updated 15/12/2016 6:23 AM IST

Either driverless cars replicate humans a bit too well or they need more tweaking before they’re ready for prime time.

Just hours after Uber proudly rolled out a fleet of sleek self-driving Volvos in San Francisco on Wednesday morning, one of them barreled through a red light. Now California officials have called a halt to the pilot.

All of Uber’s self-driving cars in both San Francisco and Pittsburgh, the first city to see Uber’s autonomous tech, do have an engineer at the wheel, so this could technically be classified as human error. 

Notably, the car’s brake lights were on as it entered the intersection, indicating perhaps someone aboard the vehicle attempted to stop but did so too late.

Somewhat ironically, the incident was captured by a dash cam mounted aboard a taxi in the next lane, aka the thing Uber’s technology aims to one day replace. 

An operations manager at Luxor Cab, which operates the taxi in the video, confirmed its authenticity to the San Francisco Examiner, which first obtained the video.

Demanding that it first obtain a permit for operating the autonomous vehicle, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles ordered Uber to halt testing its self-driving cars on public streets in a letter sent to the company Wednesday.

“It is illegal for the company to operate its self-driving vehicles on public roads until it receives on autonomous vehicle testing permit,” the letter from state officials said. “If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action.”

Uber had hailed the novelty for its customers Wednesday: “Starting today, riders who request an uberX in San Francisco will be matched with a Self-Driving Uber if one is available. Expanding our self-driving pilot allows us to continue to improve our technology through real-world operations.”

In a statement to The Huffington Post, Uber said the incident was a human mistake, not a technical one.

“This incident was due to human error,” the spokesperson said. “This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. This vehicle was ... not carrying customers. The driver involved has been suspended while we continue to investigate.”

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