CDFA’s Division of Measurement Standards (DMS) often deals with the application of new technology as it evaluates the accuracy and suitability of new measuring devices for commercial service. Over the years, we have encountered many new commercial instruments and software-interfaced systems for which there is no existing weights and measures code. Fortunately, California law facilitates the use of new technology in commercial applications. A Temporary Use Permit may be issued to a manufacturer after successful initial testing for accuracy. This authorizes legal use while CDFA and the applicant work through the other necessary technical requirements for a Certificate of Approval.
The latest recipient of such a permit is Uber Technologies, Inc. The company’s software application is used in smart phones with the iOS or Android operating systems, and it provides on-demand transportation services with fares determined using the Global Positioning System to measure time and distance. This is far different from a traditional taxi meter, which uses electric pulses generated by a sensor attached to the cab’s transmission.
We safeguard the proprietary information of all our applicants, but I can say that the Uber app was tested for accuracy under the most rigorous conditions and passed our tolerance tests. We tested the app in a variety of challenging environments; through tunnels, among skyscrapers and tall buildings, on courses with altitude changes, and even on San Francisco’s Lombard Street, one of America’s crookedest streets.
In issuing the twelve-month Temporary Use Permit, Uber is afforded additional time to complete its type-evaluation. This also provides time for CDFA to develop new specifications and technical requirements through its rule-making process.
This is an example of how DMS and CDFA adapt to the many innovations of the New Economy. As technological advancements continue to open-up new frontiers, our mission is to keep pace and make certain that commerce is fair and accurate for all concerned.