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Pittsburgh to ask all self-driving companies to follow mayor's new Uber rules

Aaron Aupperlee
| Friday, May 25, 2018, 12:30 p.m.
Ford's investment in February 2017 of $1 billion over five years in the Pittsburgh self-driving car startup Argo AI sparked a record-breaking year of investment for Pittsburgh-area tech companies. (Photo from Argo AI)
Argo AI
Ford's investment in February 2017 of $1 billion over five years in the Pittsburgh self-driving car startup Argo AI sparked a record-breaking year of investment for Pittsburgh-area tech companies. (Photo from Argo AI)
Chris Urmson, CEO and co-founder of Aurora Innovation, talks with PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards, about the development of self-driving cars during the Pennsylvania Automated Vehicle Summit on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, in Downtown, Pittsburgh. (Photo by Aaron Aupperlee)
Chris Urmson, CEO and co-founder of Aurora Innovation, talks with PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards, about the development of self-driving cars during the Pennsylvania Automated Vehicle Summit on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, in Downtown, Pittsburgh. (Photo by Aaron Aupperlee)
Uber's self-driving car fleet is parked outside the company's office in the Strip District before a test drive for media on Sept. 20, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Uber's self-driving car fleet is parked outside the company's office in the Strip District before a test drive for media on Sept. 20, 2017.

All companies testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh could face the same new rules that the mayor wants Uber to follow.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said this week that he has asked Uber to limit its self-driving cars to 25 mph while testing and use its app to alert human drivers when they exceed the speed limit.

The city's Department of Mobility and Infrastructure plans to discuss those rules with other companies testing self-driving cars in the city, spokesman Tim McNulty told the Tribune-Review on Friday.

“Autonomous operations are still highly experimental, and no operator has yet fully figured it out, especially in a complex urban environment like Pittsburgh,” McNulty wrote in an email. “The proposed return of Uber testing was a unique opportunity to introduce the concept, but DOMI would urge any AVs testing in a pedestrian-heavy environment like ours to follow it.”

Uber, Argo AI, Aptiv and Aurora Innovation have tested self-driving cars in Pittsburgh.

The city can't enforce Peduto's rules and can't regulate the testing of self-driving cars. That is up to state lawmakers, who haven't passed any sort of regulations in the two years since Uber started openly testing self-driving cars on Pittsburgh's streets.

Peduto has asked Uber adhere to the new guidelines. Uber has signaled a willingness to discuss the new rules.

Uber revealed this week it planned to resume testing in Pittsburgh in June. The company grounded its fleet in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto and Tempe, Ariz., after a self-driving Uber hit and killed a woman crossing a street in Tempe in March. The company stated it would not start testing until it completes an internal safety review and federal authorities finish their investigation into the March crash.

PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards also has asked Uber to comply with voluntary guidelines she outlined at the start of the Pennsylvania Automated Vehicle Summit last month in Pittsburgh. Uber has committed to doing so, a PennDOT spokeswoman told the Trib.

Richards will hold a closed-door meeting Thursday with self-driving car companies at the Hotel Monaco in Pittsburgh's Downtown to discuss testing guidelines the agency has proposed. Representatives from more than a dozen companies working on self-driving techonolgy plan to attend the meeting.

The guidelines are voluntary until state lawmakers pass regulations on autonomous vehicle testing.

Richards has said she expects companies to comply.

The guidelines include sharing information with the state about who is behind the wheel of test vehicles, which cars are involved and where, when and how they will be tested.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aaupperlee@tribweb.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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