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One of Uber’s self-driving cars just ran a red light in San Francisco

Driverless Uber running red light
We understand that driverless car engineers want their vehicles to navigate roads as naturally as humans, but running the occasional red light is surely taking things a little far.

Just hours after Uber’s self-driving cars hit the streets of San Francisco for the very first time, one of them was spotted apparently running a red light.

The incident was recorded by a dash cam in one of the city’s Luxor Cabs and uploaded to YouTube a short time later. Uber says it’s investigating.

In the video (above), the Luxor Cab slows up at a crosswalk as the light turns from yellow to red. A few seconds after it hits red, and fortunately before a pedestrian steps onto the crosswalk, what appears to be one of Uber’s Volvo XC90 self-driving cars trundles through the stop light.

Considering the amount of sensors and cameras the autonomous cars incorporate to ensure, y’know, safe driving, and the fact that they’re also carrying Uber engineers and safety drivers, it’s puzzling how such an incident could’ve occurred.

If Uber confirms it was indeed one of its cars, then did the on-board equipment fail? Or was the car in control of a possibly distracted human driver at the time?

The incident came to light just hours after Uber announced that its self-driving cars had arrived on San Francisco streets, picking up paying customers as part of efforts to test its driverless vehicle technology. The launch comes three months after the ride-hailing company started testing the technology on the roads of Pittsburgh, where its autonomous driving kit is being developed.

In related news, Uber said on Wednesday that it doesn’t believe it requires a permit to test its technology in San Francisco as an engineer is always present when the car is on the road.

“Several cities and states have recognized that complex rules and requirements could have the unintended consequence of slowing innovation,” the company said in a release, adding, “Our hope is that California, our home state and a leader in much of the world’s dynamism, will take a similar view.”

[Update 1: Well, that didn’t last long. California regulators have ordered Uber to stop testing its driverless cars on the state’s public roads, according to the Guardian. “It is essential that Uber takes appropriate measures to ensure safety of the public,” the California Department of Motor Vehicles told Uber on Wednesday. “If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action.”]

[Update 2: Uber has commented on the red-light incident, putting it down to driver error. A spokesperson told Digital Trends: “This incident was due to human error. This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. This vehicle was not part of the pilot and was not carrying customers. The driver involved has been suspended while we continue to investigate.”]

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Trevor Mogg
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