Girardi | Keese

Uber's Self-Driving Volvo Runs Red Light in San Francisco

The California DMV insists that tech powerhouse Uber obtain special permits to operate its self-driving cars, and has threatened legal action if Uber fails to comply, according to a recent ABC News report.

red traffic light.jpg

On Dec. 14, an Uber Volvo SUV, equipped as a self-driving vehicle, ran a red light outside of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In the process, the Volvo apparently came close to hitting a pedestrian. Uber claims that it was human error. Nonetheless, the California DMV wants Uber to obtain permits to test its self-driving cars on public roads.

Apparently, Uber has refused to do so, claiming that with human operators behind the controls in case something goes wrong, Uber enjoys an exception to the permit rule.

This brings us to the basic conflict between automakers and regulators. Put simply, it boils down to safety. And there is a big difference in terms of approach, which is one of pursuing opportunity vs. managing risk.

Automakers Pursue Opportunity

Companies like Uber (and Google, Tesla Motors, etc.) clearly view the concern as one of opportunity.

Self-driving cars that operate flawlessly (or near-flawlessly) will have an unimaginable impact on the safety of our roadways in America and heavily populated cities like San Francisco. Everyone from drivers and passengers to cyclists and pedestrians stand to benefit from a transit system that no longer accommodates drunk driving, distracted driving, reckless driving, etc., because self-driving cars remove these longstanding problems from the equation.

The human factor, error prone as it can be, will no longer exist, which translates to a substantial reduction in the number of people injured or killed on the roads. To get there, Uber argues, it must test is self-driving cars in the real world, on real roads, in real conditions.

Regulators Manage Risk

Regulators, on the other hand, are understandably reactive in their approach to safety. In the California DMV's case, regulators must confront a series of unknowns.

For example, how do we distinguish between true human error and a computer glitch?

As a society, we haven't been here before. Roadways full of self-driving cars were, until now, the stuff of science fiction. So when an Uber vehicle runs a red light on the busy streets of San Francisco, it reminds all of us that the technology is still in its infancy, and a little bit of caution could go a long way.

Read more:

California, Uber Still Negotiating Self-Driving Car Legality

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

DISCLAIMER: Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result. Any testimonials and endorsements at this site do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter or potential legal matter.


The Soto Verdict

Girardi | Keese attorneys have won a $2.3M verdict for a Long Beach resident run over by a Parks & Rec truck. Read more here.

The Madero Verdict

Attorney Christopher T. Aumais persuaded a San Bernardino County jury to deliver an  exceptionally high verdict in an area known for low jury awards.

A Champion of Justice

Partner Amy Fisch Solomon was a Champion of Justice in 2015, proving that success in law isn't just about the size of your verdict or settlement.

Own a VW Diesel?

Read about VW's emissions scandal and 
our class action against the automaker.


Learn About Our Referral Network Read More

Our Attorneys

Meet our award-winning team Read More


The true measure of a lawyer isn’t the awards, but what the awards say about the lawyer: dedication and commitment to the client.

Review Us
Super Lawyers Distinguished AV | Lexis Nexis | Martindale-Hubbell | Peer Review Rated For Ethical Standards and Legal Ability American Association For Justice Consumer Attorneys Association Of Los Angeles Consumer Attorneys California Supreme Court Icon 7 Icon Best Lawyers | Best Law Firms 2014 | U.S. News American Board of Trial Advocates Law Dragon America's Top 100 Attorneys | Lifetime Achievement Martindale-Hubbell | AV Preeminent | Peer Review Rated For Highest Level of Professional Excellence | 2017