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Uber To Resume Testing Self-Driving Cars In Pittsburgh This Summer, Mayor Objects

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA

Uber’s shiny autonomous vehicles have been absent from Pittsburgh’s roads since March, when a fatal crash in Tempe, Ariz., involving one of its cars caused the technology company to ground its fleet. Now, as Uber shuts down its Arizona operations, the company said it hopes to return self-driving cars to Pittsburgh this summer.

That’s not a constructive way to rebuild a working relationship, Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement.

"I made it clear to Uber officials after the Arizona crash that a full federal investigation had to be completed, with strong rules for keeping streets safe, before I would agree with the company to begin testing on Pittsburgh streets again.”

Peduto said he and the head of the city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure told Uber its cars would be limited to 25 mph within the city, no matter the posted speed limit. He also requested that the company’s app for drivers alert them when they exceed that limit.

An Uber spokesperson said the company would await a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the Arizona crash, before putting cars back on city streets.

But in a letter to the mayor’s office on Wednesday afternoon, an Uber representative stressed that the company has maintained an open line of dialogue with city, county and state officials, citing communications on May 9 and May 10 — in which the company alerted officials to its objective of resuming self-driving testing by the end of June — and an in-person meeting last week.

Responding to those assertions, Peduto tweeted, “You never responded to our requirements. You never informed us of today’s announcements. You never followed up on my requirements after fatality in Arizona.”

While the spokesperson said Uber will continue to work with the city and PennDOT, the spokesperson would not say whether the company would adhere to the mayor’s additional restrictions regarding speed limit.

“In the meantime, we remain focused on our top-to-bottom safety review, having brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture,” said the Uber spokesperson.

In April, PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards introduced new guidelines for self-driving car companies in Pennsylvania. Those regulations are voluntary.

Other companies have continued testing autonomous driving technologies in Pittsburgh. Ford-backed Argo AI is also headquartered in the Strip District and aims to produce self-driving cars by 2021. Aptiv, formerly known as Delphi, is also testing cars in the city.

The woman killed in the Arizona incident was crossing a street outside of a crosswalkwhen she was struck by the Uber vehicle in self-driving mode.