In a reversal, Uber will apply for a permit to test its self-driving cars in California

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Ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc. has conceded defeat in its battle against the state of California, applying for a permit to test its self-driving vehicles on the streets of San Francisco despite previously arguing that it didn’t require one.

Uber first deployed its test vehicles on San Francisco streets back in December with mixed results, such as menacing cyclists, and argued at the time that it didn’t require a license to run the test. The company argued that its cars were not fully autonomous because they required an operator behind the wheel, despite the fact it was a self-driving car testing program.

Its obstinance in not complying with local law prompted California to cancel the cars’ registrations, meaning that they could not be legally driven on a public road.

Uber’s decision to apply for a Department of Motor Vehicles permit to test its vehicles, described by The Mercury News as a “surprising about-face,” is said to be on its way, but it’s not clear when it might be approved and when Uber may start testing its vehicles in San Francisco again. “We are taking steps to complete our application to apply for a DMV testing permit,” Uber said in a statement. “As we said in December, Uber remains 100 percent committed to California.”

Confusing matters, the California Department of Motor Vehicles told the paper that it had yet to actually receive an application from Uber, but it would the be happy to provide “assistance with the steps necessary to apply for and receive a test permit.”

Uber’s Olympic-level back-flip on applying for a permit comes at the end of a difficult fortnight for the company. Last Week Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick was exposed on a video recording abusing an Uber Black driver. Waymo, the company formerly known as Google Inc.’s self-driving project, filed a lawsuit claiming that Uber stole its technology. Also last week, Uber dismissed Amit Singhal, a former Google employee who was accused of sexual harassment.

Photo: iwasaround/Flickr