Call for a full and proper public process around autonomous vehicles

PPT believes that residents deserve a full, frank public conversation about all the possible effects of an Autonomous Vehicle future – the increase in car congestion, the job loss, the sprawl, the effect on our environment, the decrease in public transit service and ridership, the heightened displacement and gentrification, the Billions needed in public subsidy, etc.

However, when the City received a grant from the Knight Foundation for “deep education” on AV technology in Hazelwood, Glen Hazel and Greenfield, and denied that it was associated with the Mon Oakland Connector project where it is proposing to build a $23 Million road for an AV shuttle, PPT had cause for concern.

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “The Knight Foundation said the grant is geared to finding what the community needs and how autonomous vehicle technology may help.”

But this is a huge problem.

If we begin a public “education” campaign about AV with a framework that only allows us to talk about helpful benefits, then we are starting from a biased position and we will have a biased conversation. The residents of Pittsburgh have spent three years as test subjects for AV technology that has proved to be dangerous and deadly. In those three years there has been ZERO public conversation about the effect of AV technology, or if we want it on our streets. It is wrong that the Knight Foundation only wants to discuss AV in rosy terms, with Tech Company talking points. We as residents need a space where we can talk about ALL the effects that automation will have, and whether this is indeed the future that we want to use our public dollars to build.

Fortunately, this week when City Council heard public testimony regarding the Knight Foundation grant from Four Mile Run resident, Ziggy Edwards, and Pittsburghers for Public Transit’s Director, Laura Wiens, Council voted to delay the start of the process. It is crucial that we structure a public discussion about Autonomous Vehicles from a framework that will allow full discussion about the effect that the technology will have on equity/mobility, jobs, traffic safety, environment, and privacy. The delayed vote allows us the opportunity to do just that.

You can make this a a reality by joining us at the next City Council Standing Committee Meeting and making your voice heard.

Pittsburgh City Council Standing Committee
Vote on Knight Foundation Grant for AV Education
Wednesday, May 29
414 Grant St.

News Coverage
WTAE report by Bob Mayo on Council vote to delay: Future of Driverless Cars in Pittsburgh
Post Gazette report by Ashley Murray on Knight Foundation grant: Grant to ‘demystify’ self-driving vehicles draws skepticism

Public Testimony for 5/15 City Council Standing Committee Vote on Knight Foundation AV Grant
Laura Wiens, Director, Pittsburghers for Public Transit
Ziggy Edwards, Resident, Four Mile Run

For more information, or if you need a ride to the 2/29 Council meeting, reach out to PPT at