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Pennsylvania lawmakers to consider self-driving regulations this spring

Aaron Aupperlee
| Wednesday, March 28, 2018, 4:42 p.m.
The Uber self-driving car fleet parked outside their office in the Strip District before a test drive for the media on Sept. 20, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The Uber self-driving car fleet parked outside their office in the Strip District before a test drive for the media on Sept. 20, 2017.
State Sen. Randy Vulakovich
State Sen. Randy Vulakovich

Pennsylvania lawmakers could take up legislation aimed at regulating autonomous vehicles in the coming months.

State Sen. Randy Vulakovich, a Republican from Glenshaw who sits on the Senate Transportation Committee, said Wednesday that he has been assured by the committee's chair that it will consider legislation this spring.

"Public safety and liability are at the forefront of our ongoing deliberations, and we will continue to evaluate the most effective measures to codify the testing of autonomous vehicles," Vulakovich said in a statement sent to the Tribune-Review.

Vulakovich is the primary sponsor of SB 427, a bill that would allow the state to regulate the testing of autonomous vehicles in Pennsylvania. The only current regulation on testing is that the self-driving cars must have a human behind the wheel ready to take control. Gov. Tom Wolf's office, PennDOT and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto have said they are powerless to impose any further restrictions or regulations on the companies.

The testing of self-driving cars is under scrutiny after an autonomous Uber SUV hit and killed a woman walking her bike across a street March 18 in Tempe, Ariz. Uber has suspended all testing in Tempe, Pittsburgh, Toronto and San Francisco. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has banned Uber from further testing in the state. Uber decided Tuesday not to continue testing in California.

Uber is a member of Pennsylvania's Autonomous Vehicle Task Force formed in 2016 to help the state develop regulations on self-driving cars.

Vulakovich was among the handful of state lawmakers who started working on self-driving legislation two years ago when Uber started testing cars in Pittsburgh. His latest bill has been in committee for a year. Vulakovich said Wednesday that he is working with the committee to address potential changes in the legislation. He did not provide details about the changes or say if the crash in Tempe prompted the changes.

Twenty-two states have passed some sort of legislation related to self-driving cars, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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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