After 3 Years, City Council Takes Up Questions of Driverless Vehicles

Last Month, after publishing its literature review “Wait, Who’s Driving This Thing?: Bringing the Public to the Autonomous Vehicle Table“, Pittsburghers for Public Transit worked with Councilmembers Theresa Kail-Smith, Deb Gross, and Corey O’Connor to hold the first City-sponsored conversation on the effects of Autonomous Vehicles.

This was the first time that the Council has ever had the opportunity to publically discuss the effects of Autonomous Vehicles, despite the 5 companies have started AV testing programs on public streets, and more than $10Million of public money has been earmarked for the construction of a roadway through Schenley park for the operation of driverless shuttles.

The Councilmembers invited five experts to testify as to what effect driverless vehicles will have on labor, data privacy, environmental sustainability, pedestrian safety, and public transit access/equity. After each speaker’s testimony, the Council had the opportunity to ask questions and respond to what they heard.

You can check out this news coverage for reporting on the City Council Post-Agenda Hearing, and the Press Conference that PPT held beforehand.

Pittsburgh is long-overdue for this conversation. Whether or not PGH residents have given consent, Pittsburghers are already underwriting the development of self-driving cars with their tax dollars, air quality, and traffic safety. Council agreed that its time to look at these effects of driverless tech; who it will benefit and at who’s expense?

PPT wants to thank the experts for sharing their expertise with the Council:

  • Jarvis Williams, Labor Representative, Transport Workers Union, Local 208, Columbus, Ohio
  • Shefali Rai, Environmental Representative, Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Laura Wiens, Public Transit/Equity Representative, Pittsburghers for Public Transit
  • Michael Skirpan, Data Privacy/Ethics Representative, Carnegie Mellon University Special Faculty
  • Eric Boerer, Pedestrian/Bicycle Safety Representative, Bike Pittsburgh

PPT is hopeful that this marks the beginning of a robust, balanced, transparent conversation about the realities of driverless vehicles, and what their real effects will be on society. Check out the Literature Review published by Pittsburghers for Public Transit on the effects of Driverless Technology, and follow this campaign for more opportunities to get involved.