Just last week ridesharing service Uber announced it had unleashed a small fleet of ‘driverless’ cars on San Francisco to test its autonomous taxi service. Only a few days into the test, dashcam footage of the self-driving Volvo XC90’s running red lights has surfaced, and the transportation-on-demand company has admitted the cars have trouble with bike lanes.
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According to the San Francisco Bike Coalition, the autonomous cars do not properly merge into the bike lane before completing a right ‘hook turn’, putting riders at risk from what they call one of the primary causes for bike and car collisions.
Californian state law dictates drivers must merge into the bike lane before making a right turn to avoid cutting across a cyclist's path and prevent a potential collision, a manoeuvre the driverless Ubers do not complete.
According to The Guardian, Uber is aware of the issue but has kept its self-driving cars on the road. While the cars are self-driving, there is a human ‘safety driver’ in the car, and Uber says it has instructed test drivers to take control of the cars when approaching right-hand turns on streets with bike lanes.
Following footage of one of Uber's self-driving cars running a red light, California State officials have threatened legal action against the company for not seeking a permit to road test this new technology. Anthony Levandowski, Head of Uber's Advanced Technology group issued a statement in response, stating the vehicles are not “autonomous” because “highly trained vehicle operators are monitoring the vehicles”.
Levandowski went on to say, “From a technology perspective, self-driving Uber's operate in the same way as vehicles equipped with advanced driver assist technologies, for example Tesla auto-pilot and other OEM’s traffic jam assist. This type of technology is commonplace on thousands of cars driving in the Bay Area today, without any DMV permit at all.”
Uber is also running a similar self-driving vehicle test in Pittsburgh.