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Advocates Press for Harder Questions While Pittsburgh Experiments With Self-Driving Cars

Five self-driving car companies are currently operating in Pittsburgh, without much critical rigor in asking about the consequences of the technology to the city.
July 22, 2019, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Sean Leonard

"The public has been exposed to risks associated with being guinea pigs in an AV lab, yet not a single public meeting has been held to address public concerns," writes Angie Schmitt, to introduce the premise of a new report from Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) intended to raise awareness about the potential negative consequences of handing over the public realm to technological experiments.

More specifically, according to Schmitt, the report "argues that public concerns about equity, the environment and job security aren’t playing a larger role in the conversation about autonomous vehicle deployment."

Then there are questions about safety risks presented by self-driving cars to pedestrians and people on bikes. In addition to the risks exemplified by the first pedestrian killed by a self-driving car operated by Uber in Tempe, "pedestrians and cyclists risk losing funding for essential infrastructure like sidewalks and crosswalks to special street treatments for AVs," according to Schmitt's summary of the report.

"The city of Pittsburgh, for example, allocated $23 million from its 'Department of Mobility and Infrastructure' for testing and deployment of an 'autonomous micro transit shuttle,' which [Laura] Weins, the PPT director, called 'not really mass transit.'"

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Published on Thursday, July 18, 2019 in Streetsblog USA
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