- Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has signed what he says is the first executive order of its kind, laying out expectations and policies for autonomous vehicle (AV) testing. Peduto said he hoped the "Pittsburgh Principles" would "serve as a model for cities and places across the globe.”
- Peduto’s executive order establishes the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) as the industry’s main point of contact, and tasks DOMI with developing guidelines for AV testing on public streets. The order requires public updates on testing and policy at least annually, and more disclosure from companies about where and when they will conduct tests.
- The order also asks that participating companies comply with city and state rules. Currently, Aptiv, Argo AI, Aurora Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University and Uber are all testing in the city.
Pittsburgh has tried to position itself as a national leader on AV research and testing, especially with the resources of Carnegie Mellon University. It was the first city to get Uber test vehicles and has made itself open to others. The relationship with Uber has had its friction — there was a public rift in 2017 over the company’s refusal to share some data, and Uber tests were suspended last year after the company’s fatal self-driving car accident in Arizona. Testing has since resumed, but under new state rules.
That experience with Uber has likely informed Peduto’s executive order. The mayor was open about wanting more disclosure from companies about accidents — even those that did not result in police reports — and the order creates more transparency requirements around crashes. The executive order does not include any penalties for companies (DOMI director Karina Ricks told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the city did not ”want to start on that foot”), nor does it set any specific guidelines. Instead, it lays out a path for how new rules could come down.
The executive order also says the city will promote beneficial aspects of autonomous driving, including low- or no-emission vehicles, systems that result in higher occupancy and those that offer "greater and more equitable access to opportunity." That serves to head off some criticism of AVs, that they could cause congestion by putting more cars on the road, or leave some communities behind.
In the absence of strong federal guidelines from AV legislation, the responsibility to set policy has largely fallen to states and cities. While industry groups have said they want to avoid a patchwork of regulations, Pittsburgh’s order seems heavy on collaboration and laying out a clear path for future policies. With automakers and tech companies racking up more test miles in more cities, expect other mayors to follow that model.