Autonomous vehicles made unsafe and unlawful turns through bike lanes

When Uber’s autonomous cars were driving in San Francisco, they violated state law as to treatment of bike lanes. The Verge explains:

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition … executive director, Brian Weidenmeier … said he twice saw an Uber car in self-driving mode make an “unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane” during a trial of the service on Monday last week. Rather than merging into bike lanes early to make right-hand turns, as per California state law, the Uber vehicle reportedly pulled across the bike lanes at the last second, risking collisions with oncoming cyclists.

Weidenmeier explained further in a post with diagrams and citations to applicable California law.

Uber admitted that its autonomous vehicles have a “problem” with their treatment of bike lanes.

San Francisco Police Department finds that Uber and Lyft drivers committed 65% of downtown traffic violations

At a hearing, Commander of Municipal Transportation for the San Francisco Police Department Robert O’Sullivan, reported that Uber and Lyft drivers were cited for the majority of traffic violations in downtown San Francisco. In particular, he reported that on the dozen tags SFPD studied, Uber and Lyft drivers caused 1723 of 2656 violations, 65%.

The most common violations resulted from using transit-only lanes (authorized for use by buses and taxis but not Uber or Lyft) (1144 violations). The second-most common category was obstructing a bicycle lane (183 violations).

San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin remarked on the seriousness of the situation and added that “We should take this to the state attorney general.”

Criticized by San Francisco City Attorney

After the City of San Francisco requested records about driver safety, disability access, and other operations, via a subpoena, Uber objected and refused to cooperate. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera summarized Uber’s approach: “Unfortunately, Uber is doing what it always seems to do: raise obstacles and drag its feet— all while continuing to flout the law.”

Refused to provide driver names to San Francisco city government

When the city of San Francisco demanded that Uber provide it with drivers’ names and contact information so the city could demand that drivers obtain business licenses and pay applicable fees, Uber claimed that disclosures would violate drivers’ right to privacy. In a June 2017 ruling, Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer disagreed, ruling that the city Treasurer and Tax Collector had legal authority to demand the information.  He said compliance would not be unduly burdensome, and that any drivers who wished to challenge license requirements could do so on their own.

Lyft provided the data to San Fransisco without litigation.

Recruited drivers with exaggerated earnings claims

The Federal Trade Commission flagged Uber exaggerating the yearly and hourly income drivers could make in certain cities. For example, Uber claimed on its site that uberX drivers’ annual median income was more than $90,000 in New York and more than $74,000 in San Francisco — but the FTC found that the actual medians were $61,000 and $53,000 respectively, and that less than 10 percent of all drivers in those cities earned the amounts Uber touted.

The FTC also alleged that Uber made false hourly earnings claims in job listings on Craigslist and elsewhere. In eighteen different cities where Uber advertised hourly earnings on Craigslist, fewer than 30% of drivers earned the promised amount. In some cities, as few as 10% of drivers earned the promised amount. Details in the FTC’s complaint.

Uber paid $20 million to settle these claims (along with claims about vehicle financing terms). The funds were used to provide refunds to affected drivers.

Failed to take action on drunk driving complaints

The California Public Utility Commission found that Uber violated CPUC “zero-tolerance” rules in its handling of 151 complaints, failing to suspend and/or investigate the drivers. In only 22 of 154 complaints did Uber suspend the driver within one hour of a passenger complaint. Furthermore, some of the supposedly-suspended driers were nonetheless able to log in to Uber, respond to ride requests, and provide additional rides.

CPUC further found that, contrary to CPUC rules, Uber failed to implement a “zero tolerance” policy that immediately suspended a driver for a DUI allegation. Instead, Uber’s process had multiple steps and multiple opportunities for error by Uber staff. In contrast, CPUC rules required Uber to suspend the driver before verifying the validity of the complaint.

CPUC also found limited evidence that Uber followed up with passengers to investigate allegations, including Uber failing to follow up in several hours or even a full day after a passenger’s complaint.

In light of these practices, CPUC recommended a penalty of $1.1 million.

Continued operation when ordered to cease

In multiple cities, Uber continued operation despite duly-empowered regulators ordering it to cease.

For example, in litigation, the City of San Francisco and City of Los Angeles reported a 2010 incident in which the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency noted that Uber’s system for “measure[ing] time and distance” had not been submitted to appropriate regulators for testing and approval, contrary to applicable law.  Four years later, Uber had still not done so and, the cities alleged, was in violation of the law each time it used its unapproved technology.

More details coming soon.