The issue stems from Uber's plans to test the autonomous-driving feature that it debuted in Pittsburgh in September. Technically, the testing doesn't involve self-driving because there is "active monitoring" of the vehicle in the form of an engineer behind the wheel. That said, Uber may be looking to have its cake and eat it too because the company is marketing the test as "self-driving" but doesn't intend on obtaining a permit from the state to do so.
"We understand that there is a debate over whether or not we need a testing permit to launch self-driving Ubers in San Francisco," wrote Uber's head of advanced technology Anthony Levandowski in a December 14 post on the company's website. "We have looked at this issue carefully and we don't believe we do."
Semantics aside (not to mention Uber's apparent goal to eliminate most of its workforce), the ride-hailing company said earlier this week that it's working with Volvo and converting a number of XC90 SUVs into "self-driving" vehicles.
Uber launched the testing in Pittsburgh with 14 Ford Fusions that were retrofitted with autonomous-drive features. With much of Pittsburgh comprised if hills, bridges and railroad lines, as well as an irregular grid layout, Uber says it's racked up enough data to start similar tests in a city as geographically dynamic as San Francisco. We'll see what the state has to say about that.