Bike Pittsburgh survey concerns sharing the road with autonomous vehicles


Last updated 1/28/2019 at 8:15pm

Shortly after Uber began testing Semi-Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) on Pittsburgh’s streets in September 2016, Bike Pittsburgh launched a survey to capture how Pittsburghers who bike and walk feel about sharing the road with this new technology. Two years later, BikePGH is relaunching the survey to see how Pittsburghers impressions of AV technology have changed.

“The first survey results surprised us when it revealed that Pittsburghers actually felt slightly more comfortable sharing the road with AVs than they did with human drivers,” said Eric Boerer, BikePGH advocacy director. “However, we also discovered that incidents happened and people had no place to share their experiences. There’s no “how’s my driving” sticker to report those close calls and no place for the city to collect cases that don’t require a police report.”

Initial survey responses found many people have experienced close calls, such as AVs passing bicyclists within less than four-feet, or failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, both required by state law. There was even a response where an AV passed so close it forced a bicyclist to ride over train tracks at the wrong angle, throwing them from their bike and resulting in a broken arm. The AV did not stop and the incident was never reported.

The mix of a rapidly developing technology (that is not yet fully autonomous) and the often unpredictable behaviors of human drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists, has already ended in tragedy. Bike Pittsburgh is also looking into how Pittsburghers feel about proposed regulations, like the city’s request to limit cars in autonomous mode to 25 mph, for example.

“Since the first survey, a lot has happened,” said Mr. Boerer. “That’s why Bike Pittsburgh feels it’s time to get an update on Pittsburgher’s opinions of sharing the road with AVs.”

Since Uber’s AV launch in 2016, several more companies have begun testing in Pittsburgh, the State of Pennsylvania passed Autonomous Vehicle Testing Guidance, and most significantly, an AV struck and killed Elaine Herzberg, a pedestrian walking with a bicycle in Tempe, Arizona. Also, the technology has presumably gotten better.

Bike Pittsburgh’s follow up survey aims to see how the landscape has changed, and how specifically, Pittsburghers on bike and on foot feel about sharing the road with AVs so that we’re all better prepared to deal with this new reality and help make sure that it is introduced as safely as humanly possible.

The survey is available at: until February 1 at 5 p.m.


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