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.
Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section. I'm Business columnist David Lazarus, and here's a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week. Many of us are off this week and hitting the road. Happily, the average price of self-serve regular gas in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is at the lowest level in eight years. Pump prices in the region are down nearly $2 a gallon from the all-time highs reached in October 2012, when refinery outages and heightened fears of lower supplies in California sent prices soaring.
Comma.AI, the automotive-focused artificial intelligence (AI) startup run by George Hotz, plans on releasing an autonomous driving add-on for vehicles by the end of the year, according to TechCrunch. The device is known as the Comma One and will retail at $999; users will pay a $24 monthly fee to have access to the company's software. Hotz says that the Comma One will not make vehicles fully autonomous, but rather closer to the autonomy currently seen in Tesla's Autopilot. The device includes front radar sensors and a camera that gives users a video stream. He added that when the product launches it will only be able to support a select number of vehicles, but that eventually the company plans on making the product compatible with a much greater number of vehicles.
Honda R&D and Waymo are in discussion over self-driving car tech. Honda is in discussion with Google's autonomous vehicle division Waymo about integrating self-driving technology into Honda vehicles. Honda said the technical collaboration between researchers at its Honda R&D subsidiary and Waymo's self-driving technology team would allow both companies to learn about the integration of Waymo's fully self-driving sensors, software and computing platform into Honda vehicles. As part of the deal under discussion, Honda could provide Waymo with vehicles modified to accommodate Waymo's self-driving technology. These vehicles would join Waymo's existing fleet, which are currently being tested across four US cities.
Honda Motor's research and development subsidiary is in talks to integrate Waymo's self-driving technology with its vehicles, suggesting that working with car makers as a technology partner is key on the agenda of Alphabet's autonomous car unit. A collaboration between the two companies will focus on the integration of Waymo's fully self-driving sensors, software and computing platform into Honda vehicles, the car maker said Wednesday. The Waymo tie-up will "allow Honda R&D to explore a different technological approach to bring fully self-driving technology to market," alongside its own ongoing efforts. "I think these kind of deals between tech and auto giants like Waymo and Honda make sense given the sheer investment required to effectively deliver a fully autonomous car," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "I would expect Apple to participate in a similar manner where they're not delivering the entire car, but the electronics."
Uber pulled its self-driving cars from California roads on Wednesday after state regulators moved to revoke their registrations, officials said. The decision came after a week of talks between the ride-sharing company and state regulators failed. The DMV said the registrations for the vehicles were improperly issued for because they were not properly marked as test vehicles. It invited Uber to seek a permit so their vehicles could operate legally in California -- an offer the company said it did not plan to accept. The controversy started when Uber launched the service in its hometown of San Francisco.
California has forced Uber to remove its self-driving vehicles from the road, canceling the company's controversial pilot program in San Francisco after a week of embarrassing reports of traffic violations and repeated legal threats from state officials. The department of motor vehicles (DMV) announced late Wednesday that it had revoked the registration of 16 autonomous Uber cars, which the corporation deployed without proper permits last week and which were caught on numerous occasions running red lights. Uber, which had previously declared that its rejection of government regulations was an "important issue of principle", confirmed that it has stopped its pilot in a statement, adding: "We're now looking at where we can redeploy these cars but remain 100 percent committed to California and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules." DMV officials and state attorney attorney general Kamala Harris have noted that Uber must get a testing permit to test its Volvo XC90s, which are navigated by a computer system but have a driver in the front seat who can intervene when needed. "It was determined that the registrations were improperly issued for these vehicles because they were not properly marked as test vehicles," the DMV said in a statement.
Uber Technologies admitted Monday that its self-driving cars have problems crossing bike lanes, and said it is working to fix the issue that could have deadly implications for cyclists. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition had warned users that self-driving Uber vehicles take unsafe "right-hook-style" turns through bike lanes rather than first merging with the bike lane, yielding to traffic already in the lane, before taking a turn from the curb, as required by California rules. In the ride he took through the streets of SoMa, "the autonomous vehicle in'self-driving' mode as well as the one in front of it took an unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane. Twice," wrote Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the coalition, in a post. Wiedenmeier said he rode in one of the vehicles before they were launched on the streets of San Francisco.
Uber says it intends to continue a self-driving car test program in San Francisco in defiance of warnings from California's Department of Motor Vehicles that it faces legal consequences for not getting a $150 permit for the project. The state Attorney General's office joined the DMV late Friday in demanding that Uber halt the program immediately. In a letter to Anthony Levandowski, head of the ride-hailing company's automated vehicle team, the state's highest legal office asked Uber to "adhere to California law and immediately remove its'self-driving' vehicles from the state's roadways until Uber complies with all applicable statutes and regulations." Should it fail to do so, "the Attorney General will seek injunctive and other appropriate relief," said Miguel Neri and Fiel Tigno, Supervising Deputy Attorneys General. State rules on autonomous vehicles "don't apply" to Uber's program, Levandowski said in a conference call earlier Friday.
Uber has launched an aggressive battle with California over its controversial self-driving cars, with regulators and consumer advocates accusing the corporation of flagrantly violating the law, endangering public safety and mistreating drivers. The intense fight with the state – which ignited hours after numerous self-driving cars were caught running red lights in Uber's home town – has exposed what critics say are the unethical and illegal tactics that the company has repeatedly used to grow its business. The ride-sharing company, which launched semi-autonomous vehicles in San Francisco without permits this week, was ordered by the California department of motor vehicles (DMV) to immediately remove the cars from the road or face legal action. But Uber, which has not publicly responded to the state's demands, blamed the traffic light violations on "human error" and suspended the drivers who were monitoring the cars. This bold deflection of blame further highlights the corporation's refusal to take responsibility for potential faults in its technology and raises questions about the dangers of prematurely rolling out self-driving vehicles.