The startup flouted the law by not having a driver behind the steering wheel, but there's not much Nevada can do about it.
Uber-owned autonomous vehicle startup Otto made a bit of a snafu when it demonstrated its self-driving semi-truck in Nevada earlier this year.
In May, Otto released a Youtube video that showed its Volvo test truck driving along a Nevada highway with an empty driver’s seat. Then in October, two months after the company had been bought by Uber for $680 million, another video was released of the truck hauling a trailer loaded with 50,000 cans of Budweiser through Colorado, in which the driver was seen to climb out his seat and into the back.
Nevada has allowed testing of autonomous vehicles on its roads since 2013. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles dictates that any company wishing to carry out such testing must fill out a permit application, pay a $5 million bond, and prove that their vehicle has undertaken 10,000 miles of testing before hitting a public road. During testing, the vehicle must bear a red license plate, and a driver must be behind the steering wheel at all times.
Though Otto had informed the Nevada DMV that its test would go ahead, no paperwork was filed, Backchannel reports.
However, it seems unlikely Otto will face any penalty for its violations, as none were written into the regulations.
Nevada DMV administrator of the Management Services and Programs Division, Jude Hurin, said: “What we have is a misinterpretation of the law. We still have a great working relationship with Otto. This technology is living, breathing, and changing as we speak.”
The DMV is set to introduce new regulations next year that will include penalties for violations, potentially including fines and vehicle seizure.
Colorado's regulations are even more ambiguous, so it isn't clear what the situation is for Otto there.
San Francisco-based Otto’s autonomous driving system features around $30,000-worth of lidar, radar, video camera, and other sensors, plus associated software that be retrofitted into any compatible truck.