Pittsburgh City Council hears concerns about driverless vehicles | TribLIVE.com

Pittsburgh City Council hears concerns about driverless vehicles

Bob Bauder
Bob Bauder | Tribune-Review
Experts brief Pittsburgh City Council on July 23, 2019, on possible negative impacts of driverless vehicles in the city. Experts brief Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, on possible negative impacts of driverless vehicles in the city.

A panel of experts expressed a range of concerns Tuesday about potential negative impacts of driverless vehicles during a meeting hosted by Pittsburgh City Council.

Council members noted that the autonomous vehicle industry in Pittsburgh has created numerous jobs in the city, but they said they wanted input from all sides to help with future public policy decisions.

The input included concerns about privacy, safety, job losses and diminishing public transit options.

“To me I think it’s just a philosophical conversation we need to have,” said Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith of Westwood. “The thing that concerns me is the jobs. I think that we need to make sure we’re preserving jobs. I don’t want to see people out of work.”

Jarvis Williams, president of a union representing public transportation workers in Columbus, Ohio, said that is exactly what would happen under an autonomous commercial shuttle bus program being tested in Columbus.

“They say explicitly that a major benefit of a fully autonomous vehicle is the reduction of costs achieved by eliminating the operator and all on-board equipment necessary for human operations,” Williams said. “We have too many concerns about the introduction of autonomous vehicles in Columbus. Our first is job loss, obviously. These are good jobs that have provided a solid middle-class income for generations of blue-collar workers.”

Companies including Aurora Innovation, Uber and Argo AI and Carnegie Mellon University have been testing self-driving cars in Allegheny County, according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation data. Uber started the trend in 2016.

Bike Pittsburgh early this year released results of a survey showing that Pittsburgh residents feel safer sharing the road with autonomous vehicles over human drivers.

Michael Skirpan, a professor on the special faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, said driverless buses would likely carry special sensors and cameras capable of recording the actions of passengers. The ownership, use and amount of data permitted to be collected are critical elements in considering driverless vehicles, he said.

“Are we going to collect the maximum amount of data, which is often what people want because maximum amount of data leads to long-term potential monetization of that data and things that they can do with it,” Skirpan said. “However, (that’s) exploiting a lot of people who are riding the vehicle and who they are mining the data from.”

Laura Wiens, executive directors of the advocacy group Pittsburghers for Public Transit, said a proliferation of autonomous vehicles could diminish public transit and lead to decreased fare revenues and fewer bus routes. She also said drivers are necessary to help those with disabilities navigate public transit.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.