South Fayette eyed as site of self-driving vehicle test track |

South Fayette eyed as site of self-driving vehicle test track

Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
In this file photo, Uber demonstrates the progress they have made in the first year of a pilot program with self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, during a test ride for media on Sept. 20, 2017.

The future of self-driving vehicles may start in South Fayette Township.

Developers have announced plans to construct a track for an autonomous-vehicle testing site at the former Campbells Airport site between Cecil-Sturgeon and Mohawk roads.

They made their pitch to township commissioners at a public hearing Aug. 21, as part of the process to obtain a conditional use for 429 of the 537 acres at the site.

Paul Anderson identified himself as a civil engineer representing a client attempting to purchase the property and construct the facility.

“The potential buyer I represent is developing autonomous, or self-driving, technology for automobiles and potentially several other platforms,” said Anderson, who would not name his employer.

Responding to local speculation that Uber is the developer, Uber Advanced Technologies Group spokeswoman Sarah Abboud said in an email that she would look into the South Fayette property, and that there is a test track in Hazelwood.

Current owners of the South Fayette property, Cuddy Partners LP, applied for the conditional use approval.

Anderson said research at the proposed track will deal with hardware and software with artificial intelligence and simulations. However, current test tracks are not suitable for the technology they are developing.

“We are interested in this particular parcel, as we believe it has the potential to become a center of excellence in the development of world-class autonomous technologies.”

Anderson said the name track is misleading, as the facility will be designed to simulate an urban environment complete with “props” for traffic lights, pedestrians, other vehicles and objects that can obstruct a driver’s view. The “props” can be rearranged to change the layout.

For safety and security, Anderson said plans call for construction of a fence around the property, and for cameras, motion sensors and laser beams to be used to keep out unwanted visitors.

Anderson said nearly 200 full-time employees will work there once operational.

Another aspect for safety, as well as for observation of the tests, will be the construction of a tower. Anderson said that plan is not complete, but he expects it to be between 50 and 70-feet tall.

Tammy Ribar is an attorney representing the buyer. She said the plans conform with the requirements for a conditional use in a PED-zoned district.

She also said the impacts from noise, light and traffic will be minimal.

On Aug. 22, the township’s planning commission voted to recommend the conditional use. Commissioners could vote on the conditional use, but not site plan, at its Sept. 11 meeting.

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