ShareThis Page
PennDOT cancels meeting on new testing guidelines with self-driving car companies |

PennDOT cancels meeting on new testing guidelines with self-driving car companies

Aaron Aupperlee
| Tuesday, May 29, 2018 1:12 p.m
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Noah Zych, Head of System Safety at Uber ATG, speaks to members of the media on the advancements made in the first year of the self-drivnig cars in Pittsburgh, at their offices in the Strip District on Sept. 20, 2017.

PennDOT has canceled a meeting this week to discuss its new guidelines for testing self-driving cars with autonomous vehicle companies.

The meeting between Secretary Leslie Richards and representatives from more than a dozen companies involved in autonomous vehicles was scheduled for Thursday in Pittsburgh.

PennDOT and Richards will now meet with companies testing self-driving cars in Pennsylvania individually, Erin Waters-Trasatt, a spokeswoman for PennDOT, told the Tribune-Review on Tuesday.

Canceling the meeting throws a wrench in Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s plans to ask for new safety guidelines at the meeting. Peduto wants the city to have a say in the state’s upcoming guidelines and regulations on self-driving cars.

The mayor had planned to ask representatives from the autonomous vehicle industry to agree to a 25-mph speed limit on all self-driving car testing in the city.

“Pittsburgh should have a very strong voice in whatever Pennsylvania should decide to do,” Peduto told reporters Tuesday. “These are our streets. They belong to the people of the city of Pittsburgh and the people of the city of Pittsburgh should be able to have certain criteria that shows them that safety is being taken first.”

Peduto said he will ask that an impartial panel of experts, not government officials, certify that Uber has fixed whatever problems it has in its software or hardware that led to the fatal crash in Tempe, Ariz. Uber has hired a former chief of the National Transportation Safety Board to lead a thorough, internal safety review.

Peduto still plans to meet with Richards to discuss autonomous vehicle testing.

The city has no authority to regulate vehicles on its streets. Only the state can.

Richards had wanted to meet with companies to outline the agency’s temporary, voluntary guidelines for autonomous car testing in the state and hear feedback.

PennDOT cannot impose mandatory restrictions on testing until the state legislature grants that authority.

Richards announced the temporary guidelines at the beginning of April at the Pennsylvania Automated Vehicle Summit in Pittsburgh. The guidelines include sharing information with the state about who is behind the wheel of test vehicles, which cars are involved and where and when and how they will be tested. They do not set a speed limit on cars testing self-driving technology.

Peduto publicly mentioned his wish for a 25-mph speed limit after news leaked that Uber planned to restart testing its fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh next month. Uber has said it is willing to discuss the new rules.

Peduto said Tuesday his speed limit and other measures aren’t only for Uber but for the entire self-driving industry growing in Pittsburgh. The chances of a pedestrian being killed by a car greatly increase as the car’s speed increases, according to data analyzed by ProPublica. The average adult has a 12 percent chance of being killed by a car traveling 25 mph. The chance increases to 31 percent at 35 mph, 60 percent at 45 mph and 86 percent at 55 mph.

“We want to see that industry succeed, but the question becomes at what cost,” Peduto said. “So when you’re looking at safety, and you know that the ability of reducing a speed down to 25 has a significant reduction in the amount of fatalities that occur in this country and around the world, is it too much to ask for?”

Uber, Argo AI, Aurora Innovation, Aptiv and Carnegie Mellon University have all tested self-driving cars on Pittsburgh’s streets.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff reporter. You can contact Aaron at 412-320-7986, or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.