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2018-03-27 19:51:05
Uber Won’t Renew Permit for Self-Driving Cars in California

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber says it is not renewing its permit to test self-driving vehicles in California until the police and regulators wrap up an investigation into how one of its autonomous vehicles struck and killed a woman in Arizona last week.

The company decided to withdraw its renewal application late last week. The move came to light in a letter that California’s Department of Motor Vehicles sent to Uber on Tuesday.

The letter informed Uber that its testing permit will expire on Saturday and that it will have to address “any follow-up analysis or investigations from the recent crash in Arizona” if it applies for a new permit in the future.

The loss of the permit, reported earlier by The San Francisco Chronicle, is the latest roadblock for Uber as the company weighs the future of its self-driving car program.

Uber halted all testing of its driverless cars after one of them killed Elaine Herzberg, 49, who was walking her bicycle across a road in Tempe, Ariz. The car was going 40 miles per hour and did not slow down before impact, the Tempe police said.

Arizona’s governor, Doug Ducey, ordered the company to suspend the testing of its autonomous vehicles on Monday, eight days after the crash, saying footage of the accident “raises many questions about the ability of Uber to continue testing in Arizona.”

Uber said it withdrew its California application on Friday because it wouldn’t have been able to respond to questions from the state’s regulators until it had time to review the findings of the investigation in Arizona.

“We proactively suspended our self-driving operations, including in California, immediately following the Tempe incident,” said Sarah Abboud, an Uber spokeswoman. “Given this, we decided to not reapply for a California D.M.V. permit, with the understanding that our self-driving vehicles would not operate on public roads in the immediate future.”

Uber initially applied to renew its permit a few days after the crash. When the D.M.V. opened the mailed application on Friday, it called the company to confirm, a department spokeswoman said, and Uber asked to withdraw the request. The D.M.V. asked for the withdrawal in writing, and it received an email on Saturday.

Uber has said it is cooperating with investigations by the Tempe police, the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. None of the investigations have determined whether Uber was at fault in the crash.

The intense focus on the accident has also prompted Uber’s suppliers to evaluate its technology. On Tuesday, a spokesman for Nvidia, a supplier of semiconductors and other computer hardware used in Uber’s autonomous vehicles, said it was suspending its tests of self-driving cars on public roads in order to “learn from the Uber incident.” The price of Nvidia shares fell 8 percent on the news.

Uber has not said when it plans to resume testing its autonomous vehicles. The bulk of Uber’s testing was in Arizona, but it was also driving autonomous vehicles on roads in San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Toronto. Alexis Campbell, a community relations manager for Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation, said it would work with Uber to ensure that safety was the top priority if tested was restarted in the state.

Uber has had a rocky history with the California D.M.V. In 2016, Uber started testing its self-driving cars in San Francisco without a permit, arguing that one wasn’t necessary because a safety driver was monitoring the vehicles.

The D.M.V. disagreed and ordered Uber to apply for a permit. When Uber refused, the department revoked the registrations for the 16 cars that Uber was testing in the city.

After California revoked the registrations, Mr. Ducey said Arizona welcomed Uber’s cars with “open arms and wide open roads.” In a public showing, Uber loaded its cars onto a truck and hauled them to Arizona. Uber eventually applied for a permit and resumed testing in San Francisco last March.