Uber Defies San Francisco City Government: Are They Being Reasonable?

By Eric G Braun, Senior Writer, USRW

Self driving Uber cars in San Francisco have been met with resistance, despite Uber's position that they do not need the city’s permission as the autonomous vehicles do have a human behind the wheel monitoring things.

Is Uber splitting hairs?

The Bay City leaders and Uber folks cannot agree on the city’s request for permits to test the automated vehicles. It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last, that Uber has been challenged and stood firm in its tactics, resembling the hard-core approach that Wal-Mart takes with its suppliers.

I lived in a community where the Township Committee and planning board resisted Wal-Mart building a superstore in the town for over 10 years. Wal-Mart never gave up, appeal after appeal, judge after judge, millions wasted on legal fees and studies. Today that Wal-Mart stands and does a great business.

Despite the request for a permit, Uber is locking horns and defying the city’s request, so the California Attorney General stepped in and Uber had to pull the vehicles off the road after the city suspended the registrations of the autonomous vehicles in question.

Anthony Levandowski, Uber's Head of Advanced Technology, stated the following “We understand that there is a debate over whether we need a testing permit to launch self-driving Ubers in San Francisco. We have looked at this issue carefully and we don’t believe we do. Before you think, 'There they go again.', let us take a moment to explain:

"First, we are not planning to operate any differently than in Pittsburgh, where our pilot has been running successfully for several months. Second, the rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them. For us, it’s still early days and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them."

"But there is a more fundamental point such as how and when companies should be able to engineer and operate self-driving technology. We have seen different approaches to this question. Most states see the potential benefits, especially when it comes to road safety. And several cities and states have recognized that complex rules and requirements could have the unintended consequence of slowing innovation. Pittsburgh, Arizona, Nevada and Florida in particular have been leaders in this way, and by doing so have made clear that they are pro technology. Our hope is that California, our home state, and a leader in much of the world’s dynamism, will take a similar view."

California is not in the mood to sing kumbaya just yet, and since they require about 20 other companies testing similar technology to submit the permits, they can’t possibly extend an exception to Uber.

So why is Uber being difficult?

Uber could easily afford whatever the permit fee is, so I suspect that this is not about money as much as it is about control. If Uber gives in, they have set themselves up for similar legislation in every state and county they operate him.

Let’s remember, states are legalizing marijuana to cash in, so in their eyes Uber, is fair game and a constant source of revenue.

From Uber's perspective, the company must maintain a sense of control, and they have been challenged by cities, cab drivers, limo drivers and for good reason. The argument that cab drivers pay for a medallion and Uber drivers don’t, is a legitimate one. Look at this ad for a NY Medallion:

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 11.10.31 PM.png

Uber and autonomous vehicles are here to stay. We are now accustomed to cell phones, computers, and drones, and this new technology will be no different. The problem is that technology is faster than the regulators and legislators can keep up with.

Today, it’s Uber, tomorrow it will be jetpacks.

**Check out these great job opportunities at http://www.driverjobcenter.com/cr-england or apply directly at http://drivecrengland.com/application/?id=Warrior3pr&rs=6982