Pittsburgh Mayor Had No Idea Uber Wanted to Bring Back its Self-Driving Cars

In announcing its plans to permanently withdraw self-driving cars from Arizona, Uber said it hoped to restart tests in Pittsburgh. But the company apparently didn’t tell the city’s mayor, who issued a press release saying he would only allow testing to resume under certain conditions.

“Uber did not tell me of today’s announcement, and I was forced to learn about it through social media reports,” Mayor William Peduto said. “This is not the way to rebuild a constructive working relationship with local government, especially when facing a public safety matter.”

Uber’s self-driving car tests have been suspended nationwide since a March fatal crash in Arizona. The company said earlier this week that it would not resume testing in Arizona, but that it hoped to bring self-driving cars back to Pittsburgh, as well as Sacramento and San Francisco, pending discussions with local officials. Peduto did not rule out the resumption of tests, but said stricter rules would have to be put in place.

“I made it clear to Uber officials after the Arizona crash that a full federal investigation had to be completed, with strong rules for keeping streets safe, before I would agree with the company to begin testing on Pittsburgh streets agin.”

Peduto said Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure has laid out two requirements for renewed Uber self-driving car tests. Cars would not be allowed to exceed 25 mph regardless of the posted speed limit, and Uber would have to use its app to alert safety drivers should cars exceed that limit.

Given the need for tests to expose cars to as wide a variety of real-world conditions as possible, it’s unclear whether Uber would be able to gain any meaningful experience with cars limited to 25 mph. The company has not responded to the Pittsburgh mayor’s statements at publishing time.

The federal National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary report on the Arizona crash this week. Data showed that the vehicle detected an obstacle in the road six seconds before impact, but was unable to properly interpret the information and take appropriate action. However, this is only a preliminary finding and the investigation is ongoing.

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