Like a Two-Year-Old

“Whether it’s a ride, a sandwich, or a package, we use technology to give people what they want, when they want it.”

That seems to be the core of the message Uber wants to convey.

Quite a paean to entitlement, isn’t it?

With a mission like that, it’s no wonder Uber gets insulted when things don’t go their way. To be quite blunt, lately, Uber has been acting like a poorly socialized two-year-old.

In case you missed it*, Uber recently deployed part of their fleet of experimental self-driving cars in San Francisco. Unfortunately for everyone, they did it “Uber-style”.

* Though it’s hard to believe anyone could have missed it, given how loudly Uber tooted their own horn, and how many news sources joined into the noise-making.

See, under California law, autonomous vehicles need to be registered as such with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Additionally, the company testing the vehicles has to purchase a permit. For the record, as best I can tell from the newspaper stories, it’s not like the registration and permit would require Uber to break into their piggy bank. I can’t find anything that suggests the cost of registering a vehicle as an autonomous test model is any higher than that of a regular registration, and at least one story noted that the testing permit cost $150. Even if that’s per vehicle, Uber could certainly have paid it out of spare change.

However, Uber, declined to properly register their cars or to purchase the permits.

Hey, remember Google’s motto? “Don’t be evil,” wasn’t it? I begin to suspect Uber’s motto is “Don’t be good.” But I’m sure that’s just my cynical streak talking.

Anyway, when the DMV called Uber’s oversight to their attention, they declined to rectify the omissions, claiming that because the cars are not actually capable of driving without human supervision, they’re not actually “autonomous”.

While Uber and the DMV traded legal opinions and insults, several of the cars were caught on video running red lights and making dangerous turns. Which suggests that either the cars are autonomous–and desperately in need of testing and debugging–or that their human supervisors could use a couple of rounds of QA testing.

In the end, Uber displayed the priceless maturity we’ve come to expect from them. They’ve picked up their toys and stomped off to Arizona where, presumably, nobody cares if a few pedestrians or bikers get crushed beneath the wheels of progress.

This small corner of the Bay Area may have handed them a temporary defeat, but Uber’s executives and investors can relax. In the rest of the world, it’s still “Uber über alles”.

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