>>> Uber's driverless cars on the streets of San Francisco got a lot of attention, but that wasn't the first place Uber let loose its self-driving cars. In September 2016, Pittsburgh became the first city in the world to have any company's "autonomous vehicles" on its public roads. And unlike SF, Pittsburgh happily let Uber experiment on its streets. (And, yes, Uber is at the forefront of self-driving cars because their plan is to get rid of their drivers as soon as possible.)
When news came out that Pittsburgh had become the first city with driverless cars, I wondered who gave the okay. What was the process? So I filed a public-records request with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
I asked for all agreements, memoranda of understanding, and other documents between Uber and PennDOT that
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allowed this, as well as all email between Uber and PennDOT from March 1, 2016, to the date of my request (Sept 19, 2016).
I received around 715 pages of emails and attachments, which include a white paper, task force agendas, meeting minutes, proposed legislation, and news articles. All documents are posted as two PDFs, above. (The emails were sent in 10 batches, with corresponding attachments for eight of those batches.)
One thing immediately stands out: A representative from Uber was at every meeting of the Autonomous Vehicle Task Force, and a rep from GM was at most of them. I see no mention of anyone from other traditional car manufacturers (BMW, Toyota, Volvo, etc.), Google/Waymo, or Tesla, all of which are working fast and furiously to create driverless vehicles.
I invite people with more knowledge of driverless cars, tech start-ups, traffic safety, transportation issues, and other such fields to check out these documents and let me know what you find interesting or important.
Uber’s decision to bring self-driving taxis to the streets of Pittsburgh this week is raising alarms among a swath of safety experts who say that the technology is not nearly ready for prime time.
The unprecedented experiment will launch even though Pennsylvania has yet to pass basic laws that permit the testing of self-driving cars or rules that would govern what would happen in a crash. Uber is also not required to pass along any data from its vehicles to regulators.
Meanwhile, researchers note, autonomous cars have been thrown off by bridges, a particular problem in Pittsburgh, which has more bridges than any other major U.S. city.
“They are essentially making the commuters the guinea pigs,” said Joan Claybrook, a consumer-protection advocate and former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Is Pittsburgh Turning on Uber? [Feb 8, 2017]
Uber's self-driving cars back in SF, but now they're legal [Jan 25, 2017]