Uber's laundry list of problems aren't just confined to the ride-hailing start-up's operations — its driverless truck unit, formerly known as Otto, is now set to be investigated by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. It's trying to determine, as Forbes reports, if Uber violated state regulations by understating the capabilities of its trucks to drive themselves.
Back in February, Car & Driver uncovered an internal document — created for Colorado officials overseeing Otto tests in that state — from Otto that showed the company believed it was testing fully-autonomous vehicles. That would appear to contradict previous statements made by the company to California regulators that Otto's trucks were semi-autonomous and required driver assistance. If that was the case, Otto's trucks could be tested on California roadways without concern of whether they violate the state's self-driving vehicle laws.
The document said Otto's trucks operate with a "self-driving system" that operates in "self-driving mode" on California roadways. Expectedly, that raised concerns of the DMV — especially after last winter's dispute with Uber over its refusal to secure a permit to conduct a self-driving pilot program in San Francisco.
Now, Forbes reports that the DMV is preparing an unschedule site inspection of Uber's autonomous truck headquarters to "see the capabilities of Otto's trucks in person" and how they operate.
An Uber spokesperson told Forbes that it remains in constant contact with the DMV, and said that its trucks "cannot drive themselves in California in the manner they did in Colorado; we deliberately use only driver-assist tech in California."
California's self-driving laws already prohibit the testing of AVs that weigh more than 4,536kg, which mean if Otto's trucks are found to be "autonomous," Forbes reports, "any testing of the vehicles on public roads would be illegal."
Despite the potential skirmish over its trucks, Uber recently fell back into California's regulatory good graces by — finally — securing a permit to test its fleet of semi-autonomous cars in the state. While that can be considered Good and Right, there's still that whole Google lawsuit over allegedly stolen intellectual property to sort out, which is ... not good.