PennDOT, City of Harrisburg and Carnegie Mellon University hold automated vehicle demo at Capitol Complex


Harrisburg, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the City of Harrisburg, and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) today highlighted safety and technology advances by conducting an Automated Vehicle demonstration at the Capitol in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Safety Symposium.

Several members of the General Assembly took rides in CMU’s automated Cadillac SRX SUV on a longer than 1-mile route around the Capitol Complex. The automated vehicle with a CMU researcher at the wheel drove itself and negotiated the busy pedestrian streets and eight traffic signals around the Capitol.

“CMU’s research has helped attract technology companies to Pennsylvania and positioned Pittsburgh especially as a research center for developing a safe and effective automated vehicle,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “PennDOT is committed to overseeing these developments in a way that safety is never compromised but encourages ongoing research to remain here.”

Carnegie Mellon University has been at the forefront of automated vehicle research and development for more than 30 years. The university has filed more than 140 invention disclosures for related technologies and has created 14 generations of self-driving vehicles. The institution aims to save lives, restore independence to the disabled/elderly, and make commutes more productive through automated vehicles.

“Automated vehicles eventually will play an important role in elevating the quality of life in urban areas,” said James H. Garrett, dean of Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering. “These vehicles will communicate with each other and with a city’s other transportation systems including mass transit vehicles, bridges, traffic lights, parking garages, etc. This advanced connectivity and autonomy being researched here at Carnegie Mellon will result in safer, more efficient and more integrated set of transportation systems.”

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse was among the officials scheduled for a demonstration ride.

“It is exciting that Harrisburg will be in the forefront of technology by being one of the main testing grounds for autonomous vehicles,” he said. “The testing is being done on one of our busiest corridors, and we are cooperating fully to ensure the cars are as safe as possible for both riders and pedestrians. “

Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its 112-page “Federal Automated Vehicles Policy – Accelerating the Next Revolution in Roadway Safety,” further highlighting highway safety’s future direction.

More details about the policy may be found at

Richards noted that Pennsylvania’s Autonomous Vehicle Policy Task Force will work to align the federal guidance with pending policy recommendations, and the guidance does not impact testing underway in Pennsylvania by CMU and Uber. Current testing is permitted under Pennsylvania law, but the General Assembly will need to enact authorizing legislation to give PennDOT the power to adopt policies overseeing more advanced testing.

“With federal guidance falling into place for operating automated vehicles, CMU will continue to build on our technical strengths and leadership in automated vehicles,” said Raj Rajkumar, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon who led the development of the self-driving Cadillac. “We look forward to working with PennDOT to advance transportation safety.”

Pennsylvania’s Autonomous Vehicle Policy Task Force is made up of representatives from federal, state and local government, law enforcement, technology companies, higher education, manufacturers, motorists and trucking groups, and academic research institutions. The group expects to deliver policy recommendations to Richards this fall.

Concurrent with the demonstration, Pennsylvania’s Safety Symposium took place at the Crown Plaza in Harrisburg. It featured a full day of safety topic discussions including bicycle/pedestrian safety, impaired driving, enforcement, and speed management. Participants also had an opportunity to give feedback on PennDOT’s Draft Strategic Highway Safety Plan Update.

Various studies and research have pointed to automated and connected vehicles as having environmental and travel benefits in addition to reducing human error in driving. Vehicle functions such as maintaining more consistent speeds, communicating with infrastructure or other vehicles, and allowing highway officials to eventually to invest less in engineering solutions related to human behavior (such as rumble strips) are examples of other potential benefits of expanding these technologies.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation