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Aldermen Are Trying To Stop Uber Self-Driving Cars Before They Even Arrive

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 14, 2016 8:13PM

Courtesy of Uber

This spring’s protracted, high-stakes battle between the City Council and rideshare companies may have just been prologue: Two prominent aldermen on Wednesday introduced an ordinance that takes aim at Uber’s most prized pet project, the driverless car.

Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) and Ald. Anthony Beale (9th Ward) introduced an ordinance to the Joint Committee of Finance and Transportation that would ban self-driving cars from operating in the city. Uber just this morning unveiled a much-ballyhooed self-driving pilot program in Pittsburgh. So far there are four driverless cars operating as part of the test run; and each car has both an engineer and a driver in the front seat to control the vehicle if and when required.

Nevertheless, aldermen Burke and Beale said the potential carries too much risk.

“We do not want the streets of Chicago to be used as an experiment that will no doubt come with its share of risks, especially for pedestrians,” said Burke in a press release.

“With the deployment of driverless cars now imminent across the nation, we should be cautious not to allow them in Chicago until we know beyond any doubt that they are safe,” said Beale.

This is not the first time either alderman has waged a campaign against Uber. Both Burke and Beale fought vigorously for increased taxes and tighter regulation against Uber and its rideshare competitors in the spring. Uber and Lyft threatened to pull out of the city amid calls for driver fingerprinting and five percent of the rideshare fleet to offer disability services. The City Council eventually passed a much-watered-down version of Beale’s proposal, and no such withdrawal ever came.

Update, 9/15:
The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets—a coalition that includes Google, Uber, Lyft, Ford and Volvo—responded on Thursday to news of the proposed ordinance. “Self-driving technology has the tremendous potential to save lives and enable mobility for everyone, including the residents of Chicago," said spokesman and general counsel David Strickland. "It’s disappointing to see some members of Chicago’s City Council are considering a preemptive ban on new technology and investment that can transform mobility for the elderly and disabled, cut traffic and congestion on our streets, and improve public safety.”

“We are committed to finding appropriate policy solutions that support safe testing and development of this technology without closing the door on innovation and investment in our cities.”