After a temporary set-back in December, Uber Technologies Inc. can now legally put its self-driving cars back on the streets of California for testing, the company said on Wednesday. However, passengers will not be immediately allowed in the back seat.
In December, the ride-sharing company had a week-long standoff with regulators when the company argued that its cars did not meet the state’s definition of an autonomous vehicle. The company argued that their vehicles still required constant monitoring by a person, therefore they did not need to obtain the permits in question.
Initially, Uber refused to apply for the $150 permit that California regulators require.
Uber proceeded to move its self-driving cars from its hometown of San Francisco to Arizona, a state with fewer regulations for autonomous vehicles.
However, Uber now has a permit that allows them back into their home state and the chief testing ground for their self-driving cars. In the same area, 26 other companies have been issued state permits, including Alphabet, Inc., Tesla Motors and Ford Motor Co., and are competing for a piece if the autonomous vehicle market.
The company announced its plans to apply for the permit last week, and since has brought its self-driving cars back to California.
Uber was granted a permit on Wednesday to test two self-driving cars on public roads, according to California Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez.
Gonzalez also confirmed that artificial intelligence startup Plus Ai Inc. received an autonomous vehicle testing permit as well on Wednesday. The self-driving field is getting increasingly crowded with both startups and auto manufacturers who are trying to develop autonomous technology.
Uber is facing a lawsuit from Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving car unit, Waymo, which accuses Uber of stealing designs for technology for self-driving cars known as Lidar.
An Uber spokeswoman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Uber will not make the autonomous cars immediately available to passengers.
Uber still needs time to build up its fleet from the two cars it currently has. The company will also still have to go through various regulatory requirements such as getting the vehicles smog tested and registered, the spokeswoman added.
Some of Uber’s self-driving cars remain in Arizona. Last month, Uber launched a pilot program in Tempe, allowing Uber passengers to hail a ride in a self-driving car through the Uber app. The company also has a similar program in Pittsburgh.