CLAIM

A video shows a driverless Uber running a red light in San Francisco.

MIXTURE

RATING

MIXTURE

WHAT'S TRUE

An Uber vehicle ran a red light in San Francisco.

WHAT'S FALSE

The incident was the result of human error.

ORIGIN

On 14 December 2016, a video purportedly showing a driverless Uber running a red light in San Francisco appeared and was quickly circulated on social media:


The video was published on the same day that Uber launched its driverless fleet in San Francisco:

Starting today, riders who request an uberX in San Francisco will be matched with a Self-Driving Uber if one is available. Expanding our self-driving pilot allows us to continue to improve our technology through real-world operations. With its challenging roads and often varied weather, Pittsburgh provided a wide array of experiences. San Francisco comes with its own nuances including more bikes on the road, high traffic density and narrow lanes.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, the footage was taken by a dashboard camera of a Luxor cab:

Charles Rotter, operations manager at Luxor, confirmed to the Examiner that the video was from Wednesday.

“Yes, the dashcam of one of our ramp vans at 10:37 this am,” he wrote, in an email.

The cab pulls up to a red light on Third Street in South of Market, by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A pack of cars flies through a yellow light, and one even drives through the first moment of a red light.

About three seconds after the light turned red, an Uber self-driving car can apparently be seen traveling through the red light at moderate speed as a pedestrian walks across the intersection on the right side of the intersection.

While the video does show an Uber vehicle driving through a red light, it is not clear whether the vehicle was self-driven at the time. The cameras at the top of the vehicle indicate that it is capable of operating without a driver, but such vehicles can still be driven by humans — and it is entirely possible that this video shows the result of human error.

It is difficult to see inside the vehicle’s window as it runs the red light, but a still shot of the image appears to show a face reflecting off the windshield:

ubder driver

Of course, this is not definitive proof that the vehicle was being driven by a human at the time of the incident. The face may show a person in the passenger’s seat, or it may not be a face at all.

Uber confirmed in a statement to TechCrunch that the incident was due to human error:

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.

Later in the afternoon of 14 December 2016, the state of California’s Department of Motor Services ordered Uber to halt its self-driving car rides, effective immediately, as its “autonomous vehicles” were operating without the proper permits:

The DMV requires a permit to use autonomous vehicles on public roads. Uber, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, had previously argued that its technology was exempt.

“The rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them,” wrote Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s Advanced Technology Group, in a blog post published early Wednesday morning, before the DMV letter came out. “For us, it’s still early days, and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them.”

So far, twenty companies have reportedly obtained the permits to test autonomous cars on California roads.

Sources:

Rodriguez, Joe.   “UPDATE: Video appears to show Uber self-driving car running red light in SF.”
    SF Examiner.   14 December 2016.

Etherington, Darrell.   “Uber Says Self-Driving Car Ran Red Light Due to ‘Human Error.'”
    Tech Crunch.   14 December 2016.

Said, Carolyn.   “DMV to Uber: Yank Your Self-Driving Cars — or Else.”
    SF Gate.   14 December 2016.