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Uber wants Pennsylvania to delay rules for driverless cars

Written by The Associated Press | Dec 7, 2016 12:55 PM
uber_selfdriving.jpg

Photo by Uber via AP

In this undated photo provided by Uber, a Ford Fusion hybrid outfitted with radars, laser scanners and high-resolution cameras drives along the streets of Pittsburgh. Ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc. is testing the self-driving car on public streets in the city.

(Pittsburgh) -- Ride-hailing company Uber wants the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to delay policy recommendations that govern the testing of driverless cars.

Uber, which has been testing the driverless cars in Pittsburgh for weeks, wants PennDOT to wait for legislation to be passed before it attempts to regulate such testing.

PennDOT's proposed guidelines, which were released Tuesday, would let the state access Uber's data about how driverless cars perform and could dictate on what kinds of roads they can be tested, in some instances. The guidelines were developed by the Pennsylvania Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy Task Force, which includes government regulators, technical experts, academics and business leaders, including those from Uber and General Motors.

The guidelines will be useful for crafting legislation, but shouldn't hamper testing of such vehicles in the meantime, Uber said.

"In the interim, we strongly recommend setting aside the current draft policy until there is legislative action and, in its place, adopting a simple and straightforward policy encouraging the development and testing of (highly autonomous vehicles) in Pennsylvania," Uber spokeswoman Shari Shapiro said in a written statement.

Kurt Myers, PennDOT's deputy secretary for driver and vehicle services, co-chaired the task force and said it made sense to release the guidelines even before there's accompanying legislation.

"This document was never intended to be the final document," Myers said. "This is a living document. This is a document that will evolve over time."

The policies areas prompting the greatest concern are a requirement that companies like Uber and General Motors submit testing proposals to PennDOT and sign contracts confirming the cars meet federal and state standards.

The policies would also require companies to notify the state before autonomous vehicles are tested without human drivers. Uber's test vehicles all have a human operator who can intervene if the vehicles' guidance systems fail.

PennDOT also wants to access data that would let it investigate crashes involving such vehicles, and keep tabs on how far and how long they're driven, and where.

Shapiro contends the "onerous" contracts with PennDOT "would inhibit testers' ability to continuously and seamlessly improve this advanced technology."

General Motors' director of public policy, Jeffrey Perry, said the contracts would delay testing without increasing safety, and said Pennsylvania is the only state requiring such contracts.

A state Senate bill introduced last month appears to differ from the policies PennDOT is proposing. But any action on such a bill would likely be several months away.

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