Ultimately, he said, he was seduced by the potential safety benefits — and by the notion that a long-struggling Rust Belt city could become a hub for advanced manufacturing. If he delayed, he felt, Pittsburgh would lose the opportunity to another region.

“I’m 51 years old. I have never seen my city grow,” Peduto said. “If we tried to stop time and did not want to be a leader in an industry that will forever change transportation over the next decade, we would be losing this opportunity to another city.”

Around the same time, Uber’s policy chief, former deputy New York City taxi and limousine commissioner Ashwini Chhabra, joined a task force convened by Pennsylvania’s transportation department. The task force, composed of auto-industry players and lawmakers, debated the rollout of potential legislation and other issues. They discussed issues including the details of what types of information would have to be disclosed — from the number of miles traveled to the number of times a kill switch was used — and whether autonomous vehicles would be required to have special signage indicating that they were self-driving cars when on public roadways. Chhabra and automakers argued against that, Cohen said, but regulators pressed their case.

Ultimately, Uber’s more diplomatic approach has helped bring regulators to its side, making it easier for the company to test uncharted waters, said Cohen, the state transportation policy director. Cities and governments, he added, are tired of being seen as hostile to innovation. “In the long arc,” he said. “I think this will be something that — if it’s done right — people will say that the private and public sector worked together in a way that benefited society.”


Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of Americans killed in car crashes each year. It is nearly 37,000, not 1.3 million.