It sounds like a bug to me:
On Wednesday, Uber rolled out a handful of its self-driving cars in San Francisco to be used by the public. Also on Wednesday, one of those cars ran a red light.
It’s not totally clear how that happened or who is at fault, since the cars have a safety driver ready to take over as well as an additional engineer. But it is very clear that the robot car — a Volvo XC90 the company developed in collaboration with the automaker — ran a red light.
The view from the dashcam in a cab:
Interestingly, Uber doesn’t have a California permit for self-driving cars; they claim that there is a human operator always at least somewhat in control. California is not impressed with this argument.
Update, 7 pm: The DMV has now shut down the Uber program.