Uber

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Police in the Pittsburgh suburbs say they're investigating a woman's claims that an Uber driver made unwanted sexual advances.

Ross Township police said the woman reported the incident about 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday.

The woman says the driver started making advances while driving her to a restaurant. The driver allegedly stopped the vehicle, but the woman says she pushed him away and he continued the ride to the restaurant where she got out and called 911.

Police said the woman wasn't physically harmed.

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

From Philadelphia to Erie, Pittsburgh to Scranton, ride-sharing services can now operate legally, and permanently, in Pennsylvania. But when Governor Wolf signed the regulation into law, something was missing—a proposal that would have allowed municipalities across the state to collect 1 percent of gross receipts from ride-sharing companies Uber, Lyft, and in Pittsburgh, zTrip.

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads)

 After more than two years of contentious legal battles, Uber and Lyft may operate legally in Pennsylvania. On Monday, the Senate voted 47-1 to allow ride-hailing services to operate in the state — and to begin regulating them as their own transportation entity. Governor Tom Wolf plans to sign the legislation. 

Harrisburg Shares In Autonomous Vehicle Testing Excitement

Sep 30, 2016
Commonwealth Media Services

Driverless vehicle technology has made its way to the state Capitol, complete with first-time passengers.

In Pennsylvania an autonomous vehicle went on display outside Pittsburgh for the first time since testing began.

Researchers made their way to the city of Harrisburg, with Mayor Eric Papenfuse among the first people take a ride.

Feds Preview Rules Of The Road For Self-Driving Cars

Sep 20, 2016
Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Obama administration officials are previewing long-awaited guidance that attempts to bring self-driving cars to the nation's roadways safely — without creating so many roadblocks that the technology can't make it to market quickly.

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. 

Joseph B. Fay Co.

The Confluence – where the news comes together is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program .

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist, and host, Kevin Gavin. They’ll go behind the headlines taking an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

Topics scheduled for this week's discussion include the myriad transportation issues facing the city. Plans to help immigrants in Pittsburgh thrive and the virtual dead heat in the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Katie McGinty and Republican Pat Toomey.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The sight was striking, the aesthetic futuristic. 

On the roofs of 14 self-driving Ford Fusions idling outside Uber's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, 14 small cylindrical sensory devices spun in unison, each with 64 channels of laser beams collecting 1.4 million distance measurements per second.

Self-Driving Uber Cars To Carry Passengers Soon In Pittsburgh

Aug 18, 2016
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Uber's move to carry people with autonomous vehicles is not surprising, given the company's history of pushing into gray areas where there is little or no regulation, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina professor who studies self-driving technology.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Ride-hailing service Uber is expanding its reach in Pennsylvania.

The San-Francisco-based company says it will begin operating in the seven-county region surrounding Pittsburgh, including Washington, Greene, Westmoreland, Indiana, Armstrong and Butler counties Thursday evening.

The expansion also includes DuBois, Gettysburg, greater Williamsport, Johnstown and Altoona.

Company officials said the service will now cover 90 percent of residents in the state.

Uber allows people to use a smartphone app to book and pay for a car service.

The introduction of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft hasn't had any impact on the number of fatalities related to drunken driving, a newly published study finds.

Researchers at the University of Southern California and Oxford University looked at the 100 most populated metropolitan areas, analyzing data from before and after the introduction of Uber and its competitors, and found that access to ride-sharing apps had no effect on traffic fatalities related to drinking alcohol.

Uber / uber.com

Imagine it’s the future and you’re riding down the road in your autonomous vehicle when suddenly it starts to downpour. Your vehicle wakes you up, says they don’t feel comfortable driving in the conditions and hand you the wheel. That responsible robotic action is one of the thoughts behind a recent workshop that examined how engineers can create safe and controlled artificial intelligence technologies. William Scherlis, director of the Institute for Software Research in Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science joins us to talk about the concept and the dialogue at the workshop.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Transportation Group's trademark yellow taxis will largely become a thing of the past as the company shifts resources toward its fledgling taxi service, zTrip, officials announced this week.

Though Pittsburgh Transportation Group will continue to operate about 10 yellow taxis at airport and hotel stands around Pittsburgh to prevent another company from taking over the brand, most of the company's 325-vehicle fleet will be painted gray and marked with the zTrip logo by mid-September.

"It's the end of an era," President Jamie Campolongo said.

Megan Fair / 90.5 WESA

For many, Uber is the go to app for a quick ride to the ballgame or the bar. But Thursday, drivers spent the day delivering curbside cuddles.

Pittsburghers were offered $30 for a 15-minute visit from Western Pennsylvania Humane Society puppies between  11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Golden retriever mix Boudin and lab mix Betty gave snuggly sneak peaks early Thursday outside the City-County Building.

“They’re, like, so soft and squishy and cuddly,” Ashley Robinson, city clerk secretary, said cuddling Boudin. “I feel like I’m a little kid now.”

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Wolf, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald are criticizing the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission for fining ride-sharing company Uber $11.4 million.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

  The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission announced Thursday it will fine ride-sharing company Uber for operating in the state between February and August 2014 without a license.

The PUC voted 3-2 to fine Uber $11.4 million — a record amount for the Commission. The PUC initially considered a fine of nearly $50 million, but lowered the figure to $11.4 million because Uber “modified its internal practices” to comply with state law, PUC Commissioner John Coleman Jr. said in a release.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Anyone hankering for a sweet treat Thursday can satisfy their craving through the Uber app.

The ride-sharing company announced it’s pairing up with the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania to deliver free cookies Downtown for one day only between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Uber officials said to request the “COOKIES” option on the app to get two free boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

And for anyone feeling bad about taking the cookies for free, Uber suggests donating to the Girl Scouts here.

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.

Three weeks after rejecting Yellow Cab’s request to impose a surcharge of up to $8 per trip on weekends and holidays, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has tentatively approved two other fare increases for the taxi service.

The PUC rejected one provision of the request but agreed to a jump in the flag drop rate — the starting amount on the meter — from the current $2.25 up to $4 and a 30-cent-per-minute increase in the wait time rate. The charge to customers to have drivers wait will cap at be 55 cents per minute.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Up until Tuesday, Uber drivers were only allowed to drop off passengers at the airport, but they were not allowed to do pickups. As of late Tuesday afternoon, that will no longer be the case.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority announced a new policy which allows transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber, Lyft and Yellow Z to legally operate on airport property. TNCs connect passengers and drivers through apps.

Ride-sharing magnate Uber wants to add 1,000 new drivers in Pittsburgh in the next 12 months as part of a larger effort to attract 50,000 new drivers in east coast cities.

Dubbed UberUP, or Urban Partnership, officials hope to reach into more diverse neighborhoods for new drivers and passengers. 

“We’re working with those organizations to understand what is the local community need in each of the different neighborhoods in Pittsburgh,” Uber Pittsburgh General Manager Jennifer Krusis said.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Just two years ago, your options for getting a ride in Pittsburgh were pretty much limited to public transportation, taxis, or for those in higher income brackets, executive car services and limousines.

But when ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft rode into town in with their slick mobile apps, quick response times and, in the case of Lyft, their hot pink mustaches, a sea change that had already taken hold in cities such as San Francisco and New York began closing in on the Steel City.

Nearly two weeks after granting a two-year experimental license to Uber, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) did the same Thursday for Lyft, the other major ridesharing service in the state.

The commission voted 5-0 to approve Lyft’s compliance plan, which was mandated by the Dec. 18 order which granted an experimental license if Lyft demonstrated that it was meeting  specific conditions to ensure driver integrity, vehicle safety and insurance protections.

Could Pittsburgh make self-driving cars mainstream?

If it’s up to Carnegie Mellon University and Uber, the answer to that question is yes.

Carnegie Mellon University has partnered with the ride-sharing company to create the Uber Advanced Technologies Center.

The Public Utility Commission has approved with conditions the application by Lyft to offer ridesharing services statewide for two years.

“Those conditions mainly address the concerns the commission has been expressing all along that these companies are proving that they are using safe drivers and they are doing background checks on drivers, that the vehicles they are operating are safe, and that they have the proper insurance,” said PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher.

Earlier this month the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission gave conditional approval to the ride-sharing service Uber to offer “experimental” service across most of Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, for two years.

One of those conditions is that Uber drivers must be insured for all three stages of the ride-sharing process: turning the app on and making yourself available for hire; transporting the passenger; and, dropping off that customer. 

So Erie Insurance is trying to fill the gap in coverage. 

The ride-sharing service Uber has won conditional license approval across the state, including Pittsburgh.

The two-year experimental service will only go into effect if Uber meets a number of conditions laid out by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission within the next 30 days. One of those conditions is that Uber drivers get insurance coverage for all three stages of their customer interactions: making themselves available via the Uber app, connecting with a passenger and dropping the passenger off at his or her destination.

Two Public Utility Commission Administrative Law judges may have recommended that the full Commission deny Uber’s application for a permanent license, but the ride sharing company doesn’t need to slam on the brakes quite yet.

“After weighing the evidence in the cases of the Uber applications that were before the Commission, our administrative law judges wrote recommended decisions addressing each of the issues in the case,” Denise McCracken, PUC Deputy Press Secretary, said. “These recommended decisions are denying the applications by Uber.”

Ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber have been granted temporary operating licenses in the Pittsburgh area, but it’s still up the Public Utility Commission to determine if they should be granted permanent permission to operate, and whether regulatory changes are needed to fit them into the transportation landscape.

A PUC hearing Thursday tackled the issue.

“I think that it would be embarrassing if we step back and say ‘no, we’re not going to accept this innovation,’” said state Rep. Erin Molchany.

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