Self-driving cars

Icelandair via AP Images

Pittsburghers are used to seeing Uber’s self-driving cars on local streets, and one Bloomfield-based startup is partnering with aerospace giant Boeing to bring similar technology into the air.

Passenger jets can already guide themselves through a planned trajectory in the air, but it's limited. They can't make their own decisions along the way or land themselves.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Uber has resumed self-driving vehicle service in Pittsburgh following a crash.

The company briefly suspended their self-driving fleet Monday morning. Police say a car collided with a self-driving Uber SUV.

Two Uber employees who were in the SUV at the time of the crash and the driver of the car were not injured.

According to police spokeswoman Sonya Toler, the Uber driver was in control of the vehicle at the time of the crash. Uber says their self-driving vehicles returned to service late Tuesday morning following an investigation.

Margaret Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Between the nose of one of Uber’s shiny self-driving Volvo XC90s and one of Pittsburgh Tour Company’s hop-on-hop-off double decker buses was the cyclist. Through the windshield, his confusion was plain to see: He craned his neck, first left, then right, trying to see around the bus to figure out why it had come to a stop at a green light on Penn Avenue in the Strip District.

The car was working on the same question.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Uber has scrapped plans to lease space in one of three remaining buildings on the 28-acre Almono site where the company’s test track for self-driving cars is located.

Uber signed a lease last spring for a portion of the roundhouse building, which once housed trains for repairs and maintenance.

Cost estimates to renovate the roundhouse came back significantly higher than expected and the building has been reabsorbed into the larger Almono development plans.

Uber declined to comment on the record about the decision.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The San Francisco Chronicle published an article in July detailing why the Bay Area is the new king in self-driving automotive technology.

Uber CEO Kalanick Resigns Under Investor Pressure

Jun 21, 2017
Evan Agostini/Invision / AP, File

Travis Kalanick, the combative and embattled CEO of ride-hailing giant Uber, has resigned under pressure from investors at a pivotal time for the company.

Uber's board confirmed the move early Wednesday, saying in a statement that Kalanick is taking time to heal from the death of his mother in a boating accident "while giving the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber's history." He will remain on the Uber Technologies Inc. board.

Argo AI

Uber is not the only self-driving car game in town. Ford announced in February that it would invest $1 billion over five years in Pittsburgh-based Argo AI. The company has been quietly building its team, with the goal of putting self-driving cars in production by 2021.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

Mayor Bill Peduto acknowledged there may be some merit to Democratic challenger Rev. John C. Welch's plan to limit lead in Pittsburgh's drinking water at a mayoral forum hosted by 90.5 WESA and The Incline on Tuesday.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

Pittsburgh leaders hope the city continues to grow as a testing ground for Uber’s self-driving cars and other companies, aiming for the federally-recognized status of "automated vehicle proving ground." 

The U.S Department of Transportation put out a call for states to apply for the designation in November. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

It's annoying when your computer or phone freezes while you are checking Facebook. The exact same glitch happening to military weapon systems software, or the code behind a self-driving car, goes from annoying to incredibly dangerous.

That's where Lawrenceville-based Edge Case Research comes in, by providing automated robustness testing.

When Ken Rosenberg thinks about self-driving cars, a particular incident comes to mind.

"One of the autonomous vehicles stopped in the middle of the road. There was a chicken running around the street, and the car didn't know what to do. But it wasn't just the chicken, a woman in a wheelchair was chasing the chicken. The car just basically shut down."

Rosenberg is vice mayor of Mountain View, California, where Google is headquartered. He was in the audience at the annual City Summit of the National League of Cities, held this year in Pittsburgh.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

 

Municipal officials from around the country grappled with changes in transportation, such as self-driving cars and rail safety, while meeting in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

This week, Pittsburgh is hosting 3,000 mayors and council members from around the country, as well as local leaders, for the National League of Cities' annual City Summit. They’ll meet through Saturday to discuss the challenges currently facing cities and share best practices for energy efficiency, working with startups and increasing transparency.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

The state agency that regulates taxicabs and transportation businesses in Pennsylvania says it doesn't have jurisdiction over free trips in self-driving cars being offered by Uber, but it will once the company starts charging. 

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

As companies like Uber and Google work to make self-driving cars, a local company is working on another autonomous vehicle: forklifts.

Engineers and designers at Seegrid have spent the last decade perfecting technology that allows automated forklifts to travel through warehouses and move heavy product without a human behind the wheel. The machines roll about like robots, making noises that sound like beeps, bells and sirens as a means of communicating with one another and employees.

Self-Driving Cars Are Coming, But They’re Not Ready For Pittsburgh Yet

Mar 4, 2016
Anita DuFalla / PublicSource

Ninety percent of car crashes are preventable.

As it stands, about 30,000 people die in car crashes every year in the United States, said Mark Kopko of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation [PennDOT]. “If you could reduce that by 90 percent, that’s huge.”

Autonomous cars have the capacity to do that.

In Allegheny County, that could mean a vast reduction in the roughly 12,000 crashes in 2014 — especially of those attributed to driver error, like drunk or distracted driving and speeding.

The technology might be 30-years-old, but self-driving cars are still in their infancy, according to Carnegie Mellon University Professor Raj Rajkumar.

CMU’s College of Engineering last week threw a birthday bash for the self-driving car, which was “born” on campus in 1984.

“It was a moment to enjoy,” Rajkumar said.

CMU Researchers Unveil Self-Driving Cadillac

Sep 4, 2013
Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Carnegie Mellon University introduced its 13th generation of driverless vehicle on Wednesday at Pittsburgh International Airport.

The specially outfitted Cadillac SRX drove itself — with U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch and CMU researchers in tow — from Cranberry Township to the airport.

Raj Rajkumar directs CMU’s University Transportation Center and co-directs the CMU-General Motors Autonomous Driving Collaborative Research Lab. He calls this latest effort the “holy grail” of autonomous driving.