SAN FRANCISCO — Uber made an enormous splash in its hometown on Wednesday when it started offering self-driving car service to passengers right here, making San Francisco the second metropolis on the planet the place the ride-hailing firm supplies autonomous automobiles for public use.
However California regulators made a good larger splash late Wednesday after they informed Uber to cease the service as a result of it was unlawful. The corporate, the officers stated, didn’t have the required state permits for autonomous driving.
“It’s unlawful for the corporate to function its self-driving automobiles on public roads till it receives an autonomous automobile testing allow,” Brian G. Soublet, deputy director of California’s Division of Motor Autos, stated in a letter to Uber. “Any motion by Uber to proceed the operation of automobiles geared up with autonomous know-how on public streets in California should stop till Uber complies.”
Uber didn’t return a request for remark in regards to the letter.
The event was an embarrassing twist for Uber, which had arrange its San Francisco driverless-car rollout as an enormous occasion, particularly because it competes with different tech rivals to deliver autonomous automobiles to customers. The debut right here, the place Uber was based and has its headquarters, was additionally a bigger rollout by way of measurement than in Pittsburgh, the place the corporate launched its first driverless service in September.
Even earlier than the service started in San Francisco, questions arose over whether or not Uber was allowed to check its driverless know-how within the metropolis. As of Dec. 8, the corporate’s identify was not listed on the D.M.V.’s web site as having a allow to check the automobiles within the state. Corporations like Google, Tesla and Normal Motors all maintain permits to check autonomous automobiles in California.
When requested, Uber stated that it was compliant with all federal and state legal guidelines. In California, it stated, the motorcar division defines autonomous automobiles as those who drive “with out the energetic bodily management or monitoring of a pure particular person.” Uber stated its self-driving automobiles, which require an individual on the wheel to watch or management them, didn’t fall beneath that strict definition.
The dispute was a reminder that Uber has not expanded its service with out regulatory hassles. Because it has grown, it has run into battles with the authorities worldwide, with regulators usually contending that Uber had a dearth of licensed drivers, amongst different points.
Uber started Wednesday with Anthony Levandowski, its vice chairman of self-driving know-how, saying in a weblog submit that “the promise of self-driving is core to our mission of dependable transportation, in all places for everybody.”
The brand new driverless automobile service right here additionally coincided with the debut of the XC90 self-driving automobile, a Volvo sport utility automobile outfitted with lidar — a sort of radar based mostly on laser beams, wi-fi know-how and 7 cameras. It was produced with Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center, the corporate’s driverless tech division based mostly in Pittsburgh.
For some time on Wednesday, any San Francisco passenger who requested a experience from UberX, one of many service’s cheaper choices, might need been picked up by an autonomous automobile. They’d have obtained a notification within the Uber app, and will settle for or cancel and request a daily driver. An engineer behind the wheel in every self-driving automobile might take over when wanted.
Three passengers have been in a position to match into the XC90 automobiles. Riders might use with a big contact display screen that displayed the automobile’s route, in addition to a rendered model of the atmosphere the automobile noticed via its cameras and laser steering programs. Uber additionally let passengers take selfies from a digicam going through the again seat, which they will e mail to themselves and share on social media.
Uber wished to make use of the enlargement of this system to check routes and terrain past what it skilled in Pittsburgh.
“We drove within the rain and different kinds of climate, and we’ve added lane-changing capabilities since we began in September,” Mr. Levandowski stated in an interview, including that Uber has confronted no main points in its testing in Pennsylvania up to now. “Now we wish to see how we function on this new atmosphere, particularly with the large hills that San Francisco has to supply.”
Uber might have gotten greater than it bargained for. Shortly after the service started, certainly one of its Volvo XC90s ran a pink mild, and was caught on digicam. The episode raised questions in regards to the security of Uber’s self-driving know-how.
“This incident was as a consequence of human error,” Uber stated in an announcement in regards to the video, which was posted to YouTube. “This automobile was not a part of the pilot and was not carrying prospects. The motive force concerned has been suspended whereas we proceed to research.”