One of Uber's self-driving vehicles is seen during a test drive in San Francisco on Dec. 14. (Aleah Fajardo/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Mayor: SF may ‘collaborate’ with attorney general lawsuit against Uber self-driving cars

San Francisco may join the effort to sue Uber, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

Mayor Ed Lee has directed the City Attorney’s Office to investigate joining legal action against San Francisco-based Uber, as its self-driving cars continue to travel San Francisco streets without needed state permits, Lee told the Examiner on Monday.

On Friday, the state Attorney General’s Office threatened Uber with a lawsuit if the ride-hail giant did not take its self-driving cars off of San Francisco’s roads after launching the service Wednesday.

Though self-driving, the cars have a driver and engineer on board.

Uber contends its cars are not fully autonomous vehicles and, thus, do not require DMV permits — though the DMV disagrees.

“DMV considers them fully autonomous,” said DMV spokesperson Armando Botello.

As the mayor of what many call the tech capital of the U.S., Lee said he is concerned self-driving cars are not yet safe and that San Francisco needs to act.

“I can’t have people experimenting and have the risk to safety at the front end,” he said. “We will support the [state] attorney general.”

“I’ve already asked the city attorney and haven’t gotten a report back yet,” Lee added, “but clearly we’re going to be collaborative with our attorney general to make sure the DMV permits are at least the minimum.”

At least three of the self-driving vehicles have been caught on video and in photos, appearing to run red lights, though Uber has said that those instances have all been due to “human error.”

Lee said the videos were a topic of discussion when he met on Friday with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, whose local Uber headquarters is only blocks from City Hall.

“Oh yeah, I brought up the video,” Lee said of the red-light running Uber car first reported by the Examiner. “He claimed — and I don’t know this for a fact — that the technology was turned off at the time.”

Lee emphasized he believes San Francisco has an important role to play in innovating technology, but that Uber must do so collaboratively.

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