SAN FRANCISCO -- Uber continued its aggressive strategy of bucking local laws by launching its self-driving ride-hailing program here last week without California's permission.
The day after the launch, the California Department of Motor Vehicles sent Uber a letter ordering the company to cease operations until it gets permission to operate the vehicles on public roads. If Uber refuses, the DMV said it would pursue legal action.
Launching in cities before receiving regulatory approval has been characteristic of Uber's ride-hailing service, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor who specializes in self-driving vehicles. In Portland Ore., Uber began operating before the city had amended its taxi regulations to include ride-hailing apps. After pushback from local government, Uber temporarily halted its service, but eventually got approval from local government and had less restrictive regulations than taxi services.
"Uber got to where it is by changing facts on the law and pushing the law to conform to those changed facts," Walker Smith said.
Uber decided to forgo seeking state licensing for the San Francisco program with California regulators because, the company argued in a blog post, it believes the rules only apply to vehicles that don't need a person behind the wheel monitoring the drive.
"For us, it's still early days and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them," Uber wrote in the blog.