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Consumer Watchdog asks California to take Uber’s self-driving trucks off the road

The DMV said Otto informed the agency that it was not operating its trucks autonomously in California.

An 18-wheel truck driving down a highway reads, “Otto” and “Proudly brewed. Proudly self-driven.” Otto

The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog wants California to do to Uber’s self-driving trucks what it did to Uber’s self-driving cars: Take them off the road.

In a letter to the California DMV, Consumer Watchdog director John Simpson asked that the agency revoke the registrations of the self-driving trucks Uber-owned Otto is testing on highways.

Simpson’s argument is two-fold: For one, Otto — which Uber acquired in August — doesn’t have a permit to test its self-driving technology on California streets and, two, the trucks exceed 10,000 pounds, which violate current regulations limiting testing of autonomous tech to vehicles under that weight.

The DMV confirmed that under current regulations, cars that exceed that weight limit are not allowed to operate autonomously.

“Vehicles over 10,000 pounds are not allowed to test autonomous technology on California roadways,” a DMV spokesperson told Recode. “If a company is caught testing, they could be cited by law enforcement and their vehicle registrations could be revoked.”

However, Otto told the DMV that the trucks were not operating in autonomous mode in the state, according to the agency spokesperson. Uber confirmed that its Otto trucks were only operating lane-keeping assist technology and adaptive cruise control.

Still, Consumer Watchdog wants the DMV to take both Otto’s and Uber’s vehicles off California roadways. In his letter, Simpson asked that the DMV again revoke the registrations for Uber’s semi-autonomous Volvos.

The agency took the self-driving cars off the road after Uber launched a pilot in San Francisco without receiving the proper DMV approval. The cars have since returned to San Francisco but the company says its just mapping the streets — not operating autonomously.

The letter reads:

“Because Otto is owned by Uber, we believe the robot truck company’s behavior reflects on the parent. You’ll recall that Uber illegally tested its robot cars in San Francisco without permits until the DMV revoked the cars’ registrations. Some cars have been returned to the city with the claim that they are only gathering data and doing mapping, not operating in self-driving mode. Based on Otto’s behavior, there is absolutely no reason to take Uber’s word for anything. The company simply cannot be trusted. We call on you to revoke Ubers robot car registrations again.”

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