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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The PennDOT secretary was expected in Pittsburgh on Thursday to meet with autonomous vehicle companies and discuss new guidelines for testing self-driving cars.
It was a meeting in which Mayor Peduto wanted to participate, but the meeting was canceled.
There has been a chilly relationship between the mayor and Uber ever since the findings of a fatal pedestrian accident in Arizona.
Federal investigators say computers in the self-driving Uber detected the pedestrian six seconds before impact, but did not stop because the emergency braking was disabled.
A few days later, the company revealed it planned to restart testing its fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh in June.
Mayor Peduto was blindsided by the announcement.
“When information is released about what will happen on a public street that the public has never been notified, there’s a failure there that needs to be resolved,” he said.
The mayor insists that certain guidelines be met before driverless cars are allowed back on Pittsburgh’s streets.
“I want to be certain that the federal report is being addressed and that the shortcomings in software have been resolved,” Peduto said.
He also wants a 25 mph restriction on driverless cars.
“Given that the federal investigation out of Arizona showed that the vehicle was able to see the person but not be able to stop, we know there is a significant drop-off between the fatalities that occur at 35 mph and those that occur at 25 mph,” Peduto said.
Peduto had planned to address his concerns at Thursday’s meeting. Instead, Secretary Richards plans to meet with the car companies privately. The mayor and other elected officials will also sit down with her soon.
They want to be able to shape what state legislation regarding driverless cars ultimately looks like.
“While we’re in this gray area, we want to be able to have a seat at the table to explain to Harrisburg what we want to see as our city streets are being used as their factory,” Peduto said.
That doesn’t mean the city’s relationship with Uber is contentious.
“I wouldn’t say that. I would say it’s more like a family fight that sometimes becomes public, but for the most part, you just sort of work through it,” Peduto said. “We’re working with an industry that didn’t exist five years ago.”
It’s an industry in which that mayor wants Pittsburgh to stay at the forefront.
“Just in the past year, over 8,000 jobs have been created in IT and nearly 2,000 of them in robotics,” Peduto said. “Pittsburgh is back on a global stage.”
Uber has a different description of its communications with the city and Mayor Peduto. Uber says it notified not only the city, but the county and the state of its intent to resume driverless testing in Pittsburgh by the end of June.