Uber shifts self-driving cars from CA to AZ after governor tweets an invite

December 26, 2016

What a weird couple of weeks it's been for Uber. 

After months of not-so-secretly testing its fleet of self-driving vehicles in San Francisco, Uber announced that the public would be able to begin riding in the cars on December 14. That was apparently too much for the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which had known about Uber's tests but hadn't yet tried to shut them down. Once the program was properly unveiled, though, the DMV's hand was forced, and a showdown began.

Basically, the DMV said that Uber needed a permit to test autonomous vehicles on the state's roads--a permit that 20 other companies had applied for and received. Uber replied that its vehicles didn't need permits because they required human monitors and therefore weren't autonomous (which was, to be honest, glib, disingenuous, smartassery). The DMV prevailed, revoking the vehicles' registrations

Uber was sad, but just before much of America knocked off for the holiday weekend, it got an unexpected present: an invitation from Arizona governor Doug Ducey. This being 2016, the invite naturally came via Twitter:

Almost immediately thereafter, Uber began shipping its fleet of 16 self-driving Volvo XC90 crossovers and Ford Focus sedans to Arizona:

Ducey and others have been trumpeting the move as a big win for innovation over regulation. It's unclear, however, when the vehicles will begin testing in Arizona, when they'll be available for public use, and what sort of permits will be required. Though Ducey has painted Uber's arrival as indicative of Arizona's business-friendly environment, the legislation authorizing self-driving vehicles on state roads has left regulation of those vehicles in the hands of the state's DMV--just like California. Stay tuned...

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