Uber will apply for a self-driving testing permit with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) after all, the company revealed in a Thursday statement given to The Mercury News. Uber's announcement marks a drastic shift in the company's approach to testing its autonomous driving fleet as the San Francisco-based tech giant spent the last two months arguing with the DMV over the legal definition of self-driving cars under California law. Uber initially claimed that it isn't illegally testing its autonomous driving fleet in San Francisco as the 16 Volvo XC90 SUVs it started experimenting with aren't actually autonomous. Instead, the ride-hailing company said its experimental vehicles are only self-driving as they're constantly supervised by professional drivers who are ready to take the wheel in case anything goes wrong. Therefore, Uber claimed it doesn't need an autonomous driving permit as it isn't testing autonomous but self-driving vehicles.
Both Uber and the DMV stuck to their sides of the argument so far and Uber repeatedly refused to obtain a $150 testing permit that would allow it to experiment with its self-driving fleet on the streets of San Francisco without any legal issues. However, the company's latest statement suggest how its hostile stance on correspondence with authorities is over. The latest turn of developments is in line with a public apology recently issued by Uber's Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick. Following a series of scandals within the company and a lawsuit alleging Uber stole trade secrets from Alphabet's autonomous driving subsidiary Waymo, Kalanick said how the situation requires him to revamp his leadership style and "grow up."
It's unclear whether Uber's self-driving fleet might return to the streets of San Francisco, but a company spokeswoman told The Mercury News that Uber is currently in the process of acquiring a DMV testing permit. The DMV later confirmed that the most valuable startup in the world is indeed once again corresponding with the agency and is trying to acquire a testing permit. Regardless of Uber's decision to drop its dispute with the DMV for the time being, the company's latest statement reiterated that Uber hasn't changed its stance on the definition of a self-driving vehicle under California law.