As autonomous cars cruise into 2019, expect there to be more data on testing available to the public, including where to find the cars — just don’t expect it down to the street or neighborhood level.
Following the first fatal crash involving an autonomous vehicle, when a pedestrian was killed in March by an Uber self-driving vehicle in Arizona, PennDOT gained interim oversight of testing in Pennsylvania in April as the department and industry wait for legislation.
Previously, autonomous testers weren’t required to report data such as testing locations, even public roads, and fleet size to the state — or anyone. So The Incline started mapping locations that readers and our staff spotted autonomous vehicles.
While companies are still not required to report such data, PennDOT’s interim oversight asks for it through a “notice of testing,” and PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards stressed at the Pennsylvania Automated Vehicle Summit that it was a good idea for companies to cooperate in anticipation of possible legislation.
Four of the five companies testing in Pittsburgh have filed their notice of testing and are authorized testers per PennDOT. But PennDOT’s list of authorized testers only includes approved counties, so while it’s more data than was available in the past, it’s not on the neighborhood or street level, unless the company is willing to disclose it.
So The Incline will continue mapping self-driving cars — with your help — in 2019.
Here’s a new and updated map of where self-driving cars are in the Pittsburgh area, followed by a breakdown by each company of where the cars have been and where they are going.
Dots on the map indicate where cars have been spotted. Stars indicate that a company said it is conducting testing in the municipality, neighborhood or street.
Since Uber stopped testing in autonomous mode outside of the Strip District, this map only includes the company’s current testing locations. However, our interactive version allows you to see Uber’s testing prior to March 2018. (See the interactive map here.)
Of the five Pittsburgh testers, Aptiv (formerly Delphi) is the only one that is not an authorized tester as of Dec. 18. However, spokesperson Dave Niemiec told The Incline on Wednesday that Aptiv is in the process of submitting its notice of testing to PennDOT.
Past: Previously Delphi, the company is based in O’Hara Township, and its cars are more difficult to spot since they don’t have the tell-tale cameras and sensors on top like other self-driving cars. While the company is testing in the Pittsburgh area, it hasn’t revealed more specifics.
Future: If Aptiv’s notice of testing is approved, it will reveal at least what county or counties the company is testing in.
The newest PennDOT authorized tester, Argo AI was approved to test its self-driving vehicles in Allegheny County on Dec. 18.
Past: The company’s Ford Fusions were spotted in Allegheny West, Allegheny Center, Downtown, Lawrenceville, South Side and the Strip District, as well as in the North and South Hills.
Future: Argo AI’s testing and fleet size is “always growing and the vehicles often move around from location to location,” Ford spokesman Alan Hall told The Incline via email. (Ford invested $1 billion in Argo AI in February 2017.) And since PennDOT approved testing across the county, keep an eye out for these cars anywhere.
This company was the first to have its notice of testing approved by PennDot in October.
Past: Aurora’s Lincoln MKZ self-driving vehicles were spotted by Incline readers in Lawrenceville, Monroeville and going from I-279 to I-79 in the North Hills.
Future: While testing is approved in the entire county, Aurora said testing is happening in Pittsburgh, as well as Blawnox, Etna, Churchill, Edgewood, Harmar, Millvale, Monroeville, Oakmont, O’Hara, Plum, Sharpsburg, Swissvale, Plum and Wilkins Township.
Carnegie Mellon University
A leader in autonomous vehicles for decades, CMU filed its notice of testing with PennDOT for 25 counties including Allegheny, Beaver, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence and Washington and was approved Dec. 10.
Past: Per Professor Raj Rajkumar of the Robotics Institute at CMU, the university tests its vehicles in four Pittsburgh neighborhoods — Downtown, Oakland, Shadyside and Squirrel Hill — as well as the North Hills.
Future: While CMU has tested in Cranberry before, there are plans to continue testing there in 2019 as part of a vehicle-to-infrastructure networking system. In 2012, the university worked with the township to install 12 wireless transmitters to broadcast the status of traffic signals to connected and automated vehicles along Route 19. So it was always the plan to have the CMU self-driving vehicle be part of that system, Rajkumar said.
Uber’s Dec. 17 PennDOT approval marked a return to autonomous testing for the company that had halted its testing for months.
Past: These autonomous vehicles were once the easiest to spot with obvious branding and a fleet that circled multiple areas of the city. Prior to the fatal crash in Arizona, Uber was testing in at least 12 city neighborhoods, as well as along McKnight Road in the North Hills. After the crash, the company pulled the cars from the streets entirely. They returned in manual mode in July and were back testing in self-driving mode as of Dec. 20. Per Uber, autonomous testing was just happening between 31st and 34th streets in the Strip District.
Future: Uber’s notice of testing with PennDOT is for all of Allegheny County and the company stressed that the testing area may change as time goes on, but didn’t provide a timeline for expanded testing in its Dec. 20 announcement. So keep an eye out for self-driving Ubers.
Help us track self-driving cars in 2019
If you see a self-driving car, (safely!) snap a picture, and send us the photo (or description) and location in one of three ways: