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Uber Moves Self-Driving Cars To Arizona

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Arizona offered open roads to Uber after California ran its self-driving car test programme off the road

Uber has transferred its fleet of autonomous test vehicles from California to Arizona following a confrontation with regulators in the company’s home state.

San Francisco-based Uber had planned to trial the cars in its home town after beginning its first trial earlier this year in Pittsburgh, which had welcomed the move.

Uber

Red light

Within hours of the programme’s San Francisco launch, however, the vehicles were caught driving in bicycle lanes and running red lights, something Uber blamed on “human error”.

The state’s department of motor vehicles ordered the vehicles off the road until Uber applied for a permit, but Uber refused, saying the issue was “an important issue of principle”.

It argued the vehicles, which require constant human oversight and intervention, don’t fall under a Californian law that requires permits for vehicles able to drive “without the active physical control or monitoring of a natural person”.

Regulators disagreed and on Wednesday said they would revoke the registration of the 16-car fleet, upon which Uber said it would halt on-road tests.

The next day the ride-hailing firm put the cars on long-haul trucks belonging to Otto, a self-driving lorry company it acquired in August.

“Our cars departed for Arizona this morning by truck,” Uber said in a statement. “We’ll be expanding our self-driving pilot there in the next few weeks.”

Open roads

Arizona governor Doug Ducey, a technology enthusiast, had invited Uber to his state, promising a warm welcome.

“Arizona welcomes Uber self-driving cars with open arms and wide open roads,” Ducey said in a statement. “While California puts the brakes on innovation and change with more bureaucracy and more regulation, Arizona is paving the way for new technology and new businesses.”

Arizona’s department of transportation said the state has no special registration or licensing requirements for autonomous vehicles.

Arizona has one of the highest rates of poverty in the US and Ducey has backed measures aimed at bringing more high-tech businesses into the state.

Waymo, the car division of Google parent Alphabet, is also carrying out tests in Arizona following trials in California, and has said it is considering bringing its vehicles to London.

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