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WHY PITTSBURGH IS A TESTING GROUND FOR SELF-DRIVING VEHCILES

Posted on Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017 at 3:22 pm    

According to an article appearing at LPN,, Uber’s fleet of more than 200 vehicles have logged more than one million miles in Pittsburgh and Tempe, Arizona. A spokesman for Uber said that, Uber’s self-driving vehicles have given rides to 30,000 people since August of 2016.

Uber is not the only company doing research and testing in Pittsburgh. Ford’s artificial intelligence division has set up in Pittsburgh with a one-billion-dollar investment from Ford. Delphia and Aurora Innovation are also conducting research in Pittsburgh.

Perhaps one of the reasons that Pittsburgh has been chose by Uber and others for testing of self-driving vehicles is that according to Roger Cohen at PennDOT, “Its currently legal to drive an autonomous vehicle in Pennsylvania because the law is silent on it.” Cohen stated that “All that needs to be done is to have a licensed driver in the driver’s seat. He doesn’t even have to have his hands on the steering wheel.”

Testing has not been without problems however. Uber has twice grounded its fleet in Pittsburgh. Once following a crash in Tempe in March of 2017 and again on September 18 after crash in Pittsburgh. Police, however, determined that the non-Uber driver caused the Tempe crash and that a human was driving during the Pittsburgh crash.

However, according to LPN, bicyclists in Pittsburgh have reported that a self-driving Uber vehicle failed to recognize a bike lane.

According to the LPN article, Craig Ewer of Uber stated that “Our vehicles are programmed to follow local passing laws. If a vehicle is unable to abide by the law due to the challenging road conditions – narrow alleyways, for example – the vehicle operator will take over to keep the vehicle operating in a safe, law abiding fashion. Respecting bike lanes is something we continue to work on.”

The LPN article also pointed out that legislation was reintroduced earlier this year by Senator Randy Vulakovich of Allegheny County, who sets out exactly how the state will regulate self-driving vehicles. As a result of criticism from the industry, the committee is currently working on an amendment to overhaul the bill in an effort to win more industry support.

Perhaps one of the biggest pushes for the development of autonomous vehicles is the recognition that vehicle crashes, which are largely a result of human error,led to more than 4 million Emergency Room visits in 2014 according to the CDC. This represented about 1 in every 10 trips to the ER in 2014.

Source: An article appearing in the LNP on October 6, 2017 entitled “Driving Disruption” by Mike Wereschagin.