(Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

SF transit authority backs bill punishing self-driving car company scofflaws

Uber’s self-driving cars drove on San Francisco streets without permits, officials say, and now the backing of a bill to curb such behavior is gaining steam.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board voted unanimously to support a bill that would empower cities to stop companies from running self-driving cars on their streets without proper permits.

“It has been well-documented that the scantily regulated Transportation Network Company (TNC) vehicles and ‘autonomous’ or ‘self-driving’ vehicles pose serious safety threats to the general public,” reads the resolution by the authority.

Assembly Bill 87, authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, is three-pronged and would codify the Department of Motor Vehicles’ actions to repeal registration of the scofflaw self-driving cars, legally allowing cities to impound those cars.

As the San Francisco Examiner previously reported, the bill would also allow the DMV to fine companies $25,000 per vehicle per day for operating self-driving cars without proper permits, as Uber allegedly did. The bill would also punish companies that operate self-driving cars without permits by revoking their permit eligibility for up to two years.

Ting’s bill is intended to help cities weigh public safety as tech companies push toward innovation without following what officials say are proper guidelines.

The measure to back Ting’s bill was introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who chairs the SFCTA board, after Uber launched its self-driving cars in San Francisco on Dec. 14, 2016, without permits required by the DMV, the agency said.

Uber disagreed and said its cars did not meet the requirements of DMV to necessitate permits.

Mayor Ed Lee previously explored impounding the Uber vehicles operating on San Francisco streets without permission, but was told by the San Francisco Police Department that legally he could not.

Ting’s bill would allow Lee and other California mayors to respond to scofflaw technology companies.

The resolution also states the bill “sends a clear message to TNCs that there are consequences for operating outside of the law.”

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