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Bike Pittsburgh Wants To Know How Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Do With Cyclists, Pedestrians

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
Uber technicians wait in the shadow of the company's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

The bike and pedestrian advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh is trying to gain a better understanding of how the growing number of self-driving cars are interacting with local cyclists and walkers.

“We do see real potential safety benefits from removing humans from the operation of cars,” said Bike Pittsburgh spokeswoman Alex Shewczyk. “However, we don’t appreciate being guinea pigs for this experiment, so we just want to make sure that everything is safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.”

When Uber's self-driving cars launched in September, company officials said each car was accompanied by two "safety drivers" who can take over control of the car, if needed

Bike Pittsburgh has a survey on its website, which will run through March 8.  The survey asks questions as basic as, “Have you interacted with an autonomous vehicle (AV) while riding your bicycle on the streets of Pittsburgh?” to specific questions such as should laws “prevent AVs from operating in an active school zone?”

Bike Pittsburgh has not yet taken a stance on the use of the region’s roads as a testing ground.

“We are using this survey as a way to collect both what our members think and what the Pittsburgh general audience wants,” Shewczyk said. “From there, we're going to move on and see what should our stance be and how are we going to move on from there.”

After the survey closes, Bike Pittsburgh will continue to take written reports on any interactions between bikers and pedestrians and the self-driving cars.

“We want to make sure that as (AV testing) is growing, we’re growing along with it,” Shewczyk said.  “Because we’re in this testing bed with all these AVs and it’s such a new and growing technology, we want to make sure that everyone is safe.”

According to Shewczyk, Bike Pittsburgh has not spoken to Uber or the other companies testing AV technologies in the city about their strategies for interacting with non-motorized traffic.

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.