It looks like this Christmas, Uber won't be playing California's reindeer games. Following the California Department of Motor Vehicle's decision to pull the registrations of the company's self-driving vehicles, the ride-hailing start-up packed its 16 test vehicles onto what appear to be Otto trucks, and is sending them to Arizona.
“Our cars departed for Arizona this morning by truck. We’ll be expanding our self-driving pilot there in the next few weeks, and we’re excited to have the support of Governor Ducey,” said a company spokesperson in a email statement to the media.
Uber has been at odds with the California regulators who are requiring the company to apply for an Autonomous Vehicle Testing permit to test its self-driving vehicles on public roads. The process for the AVT permits isn't complicated or lengthy, but requires that the company post a $5 million insurance policy or bond, or self-insure. Perhaps more important, it also requires manufacturers to report all instances when test drivers need to take control back from autonomous mode.
Following the CA DMV's decision yesterday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey took to twitter to lobby Uber to bring its vehicles to the fast-growing state. Its AV rules are a bit more manufacturer-friendly thanks to an executive order signed by Governor Doug Ducey directing agencies to “undertake any necessary steps to support the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles on public roads within Arizona.”
The Twitter campaign may have worked. Today Governor Ducey issued a statement welcoming Uber:
“Arizona welcomes Uber self-driving cars with open arms and wide open roads. 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. In 2015, I signed an executive order supporting the testing and operation of self-driving cars in Arizona with an emphasis on innovation, economic growth, and most importantly, public safety. This is about economic development, but it’s also about changing the way we live and work. Arizona is proud to be open for business. California may not want you, but we do.”
Uber may have abandoned its home town of San Francisco this year, but the fight may not be over. The company issued a statement to the press saying it is committed to expanding self-driving in California, and will be "redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules.”
Does this mean that the company plans to challenge the validity or wisdom of California's rules governing autonomous vehicles in court? That could be an expensive way to force states to allow companies to commercialize this technology, when it can effectively vote with its revenue.
Other states are loosening or drafting new motor vehicle legislation to attract companies to test and develop the technology in their state. Michigan recently authorized manufacturers and technology companies to test autonomous vehicles without requiring the presence of a driver in the vehicle. Next year it may be California's turn to play catch up.