Uber’s Clash With Regulators Moves to Self-Driving Cars

Skirmish sets stage for first major test of nascent autonomous-driving laws

Since last Wednesday, Uber has defiantly offered rides to San Francisco customers in a handful of autonomous vehicles despite opposition from California regulators who demand the company get a state permit or pull the autos off the road.

Uber has long clashed with authorities over decades-old taxi laws, but its latest salvo could ultimately have greater repercussions for the company.

.. Other companies like Alphabet Inc.’s Google have spoken out against the patchwork of state and federal laws, but none have so brazenly defied regulators as Uber has done this past week on San Francisco’s streets.

.. An Uber executive fired back on Friday, saying the company wouldn’t apply for California’s autonomous-driving permit because its robot cars must be manned by humans, rendering them less than fully autonomous.

.. If Uber was trying to make a statement, the gambit worked. The standoff highlights Uber’s conviction that laws should be adapted to fit its business model​ and not the other way around, say people familiar with the company’s thinking.

.. The stakes are potentially greater for Uber with self-driving vehicles because CEO Travis Kalanick ultimately sees them replacing its 1.5 million drivers to ferry commuters, food and packages. Drivers now keep up to 75% of fares.

 ..If granted a permit, Uber would have to reveal accidents, and when a vehicle’s autonomous mode is deactivated by either failures or by the car’s human driver.

.. “If Uber wouldn’t have announced they were testing they’d probably be fine, but this is a challenge to DMV’s regulations,”