Dec. 21, 2016 9:28 p.m. ET

Uber Technologies Inc. on Wednesday relented in a public battle with California regulators over self-driving cars, halting a test program in San Francisco after the state revoked the registration of the vehicles involved.

Uber started the experiment a week earlier, making several of its self-driving vehicles available for customers to hail using a smartphone app. But it refused to apply for the $ 150 permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles because the company said it wasn’t required.

That prompted quick condemnation from the DMV, which said the tests were illegal, and a rising chorus of opposition from others including the state attorney general’s office and San Francisco’s mayor. But Uber had persisted with the tests despite that criticism.

Uber’s defiance of regulators was centered on its stated belief that its vehicles weren’t fully autonomous because they had a driver in the front seat who could take the controls whenever necessary.

California’s attorney general had threatened to sue, but ultimately the DMV took the simple action of invalidating the registrations of​16 vehicles, which would ​give​ police authority to remove the vehicles from California streets. That prompted Uber to capitulate.

“The registrations were improperly issued for these vehicles because they were not properly marked as test vehicles,” the DMV said in a statement Wednesday. “The department invited Uber to seek a permit so their vehicles can operate legally in California.”

San Francisco-based Uber said it “will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules,” and that it is “now looking at where we can redeploy these cars but remain 100% committed to California.”

Write to Greg Bensinger at greg.bensinger@wsj.com

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