| SAN FRANCISCO, March 8
SAN FRANCISCO, March 8 Uber Technologies Inc
can legally put its self-driving cars back on
California streets after securing the necessary permit from
state regulators, the company said on Wednesday, although
passengers will not immediately be allowed in the backseat.
The permit allows Uber back into its home state and the
chief testing ground for self-driving cars, where 26 other
companies, including Alphabet Inc, Tesla Motors
and Ford Motor Co, are competing for a piece of
the autonomous vehicle market and have obtained state permits.
Obtaining the permit also marks a concession for Uber, which
had fought California regulators over the requirement and
initially refused to apply for the $150 permit.
After a week-long standoff with regulators last December
when Uber argued that its cars do not meet the state's
definition of an autonomous vehicle because they require
constant monitoring by a person, Uber moved its self-driving
cars from San Francisco to Arizona, a state with fewer
regulations for autonomous vehicles.
Now Uber, which first announced plans to apply for the
permit last week, has brought its self-driving cars back to
California and acquiesced to the state's rules.
California Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Jessica
Gonzalez confirmed that Uber was on Wednesday granted a permit
to test two self-driving cars on public roads.
Gonzalez also said artificial intelligence startup Plus Ai
Inc received an autonomous vehicle testing permit on Wednesday.
The niche is becoming increasingly crowded with both startups
and auto manufacturers trying to develop autonomous technology
that could one day replace traditional cars.
Uber will not make the autonomous cars immediately available
to passengers, according to an Uber spokeswoman, who spoke on
condition of anonymity.
The company needs time to build up its fleet from the two
cars it has now and go through the various regulatory
requirements such as getting the vehicles smog tested and
registered, the spokeswoman added.
Uber's efforts to rebuild its self-driving program come as
the company faces a lawsuit from Alphabet Inc's self-driving car
unit, Waymo, which accuses Uber of stealing designs for
technology for autonomous cars known as Lidar. Uber has said
Waymo's claims are false.
Uber was forced to shutter its self-driving pilot in San
Francisco last December just a week after launching, when the
DMV revoked the registration of 16 Uber self-driving cars for
lacking the proper permits.
Uber then moved those cars to Arizona, where they remain.
Uber last month launched a pilot program in Tempe, allowing
passengers to hail a ride in a self-driving car through the Uber
app. The company has a similar program in Pittsburgh.
(Reporting by Heather Somerville, editing by G Crosse)