Self-driving car trial abandoned over Uber's refusal to pay $US150 registration fee

High-tech derailed by low-tech regulatory spat.

Uber's self-driving car trial in San Francisco has come to an abrupt trial, just days after it began

The problem was not technical but legal — and petty-legal, at that.

Uber refused to apply for a $US150 "test vehicle" permit for each of the 16 Volvo SUVs involved, arguing that it wasn't required for the test because a human driver was behind the wheel ready to take over in the event of a problem.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles begged to differ. It revoked the registration for all sixteen vehicles, giving police power to pull them off the road.

Overnight, Uber threw in the towel and ended its San Francisco trial. It's now shipping the test cars to Arizona.

Other companies testing self-drive cars around the city, including GM, Tesla and Google's parent Alphabet, have paid the $US150 test vehicle permit fee.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Uber lost more than $US800 million in the third quarter, in part because of new-technology initiatives like its driver-less car trial, in partnership with Volvo. The company has a private equity value of around $US68 billion.

Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick has previously said he wants a commercial driver-less vehicle service up and running by 2021 — and that ultimately he wants his company's entire fleet to be driverless.

He has a huge tech vision ... and a huge aversion to paying any costs he sees as unnecessary. 

The scoff-law Uber and the conservative, safety conscious Volvo continue to make an odd couple.



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