PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh’s mayor is setting the record straight about reports of layoffs by Uber.
While the company is laying off about 100 autonomous vehicle operators, Mayor Peduto says most are being let go elsewhere and Uber’s self-driving operations in Pittsburgh are expanding.
Peduto says Uber is hiring more highly qualified operators with an eye to safety.
“They’re looking at more specialized drivers. They’re obviously taking the tragedy that happened in Arizona very seriously before they enter back onto streets,” Peduto said.
Uber has suspended on-street testing of self-driving vehicles nationwide since an operator in Arizona failed to stop a vehicle while it was in autonomous mode, striking and killing a woman crossing a highway.
The vehicle sensors didn’t work and the operator behind the wheel was watching a video on a cell phone at the time of the crash. Uber is now looking to hire 55 new operators with more technical expertise, called “mission specialists,” in Pittsburgh.
“The people who have lost their jobs in Pittsburgh will be given an opportunity to apply for the new position,” Peduto said.
While Uber’s autonomous cars are off the streets, other companies, like Argo AI, continue to test theirs in city traffic. But the mayor wants to establish safety standards for all, proposing that operators be trained and tested and be required to have a driverless car driver’s license. Since the Arizona vehicle was traveling 40 mph, the mayor wants to reduce the maximum speed to 25.
“We can wait for Harrisburg to do it, we can wait for Washington to do it or we can create a Pittsburgh standard and be able to take another step in the lead of this critical trillion dollar industry,” Peduto said.
Uber expects to join Argo and the others in on-street testing in Pittsburgh later this summer, and from there, the mayor says the company’s future is bright here.