Self-driving car executive order. Photo by Bill O'Toole.

On Monday morning, Mayor Bill Peduto signed an executive order laying out new guidelines for researchers testing autonomous cars on city streets.

Flanked by representatives from Uber, Argo AI, Aptiv Innovation, Aurora Innovation and CMU, Peduto said the order will require engineers and researchers to regularly share certain nonproprietary data on their road and safety tests with the city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI).

In turn, DOMI will release reports on the data to the public at least once a year.

“Autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to dramatically improve safety on our city streets and yield transformative benefits to equitable access and quality of life for all in our city,” said Mayor Peduto. “This can only happen when industry, agencies and people understand one another and work together.”

He added, “My hope is that this executive order will not only provide the necessary platform and process to do that for our city but serve as a model for cities and places across the globe.”

In the last year, autonomous vehicles have become a lightning rod for controversy in Pittsburgh and across the country. In March of 2018, an Uber autonomous vehicle killed a pedestrian on the streets of Tempe, Arizona. Several months later, a whistleblower from Uber released emails detailing several near misses on the streets of Pittsburgh.

Speaking to the assembled media, DOMI Director Karina Ricks explained that the executive order builds on existing PennDOT regulations, and does not include any penalties for noncompliance or independent auditing of the data provided by researchers.

“These guidelines provide a framework for sharing information relevant to policymaking and building the public trust, which is essential to the success of self-driving development and its ultimate deployment in ways that strengthen our cities and communities,” Ricks said.

Both Ricks and Peduto emphasized that the information gained from the partnership will inform further policies and regulations as the industry continues to evolve.

“At Uber, we believe self-driving technology has the potential to change how the world works,” said Eric Meyhofer, the head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, which is based in Lawrenceville. “We want to make sure self-driving technology works for all of Pittsburgh.”

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.