A place where airplanes once took off and landed in South Fayette Township could soon end up being a site where autonomous vehicles are put through their paces.
A plan was outlined for South Fayette’s board of commissioners Wednesday that, if approved, would transform the long-dormant Campbell Airport on Millers Run Road into a testing ground for autonomous vehicles. It would have about 200 employees in “high-tech and high-paying jobs,” according to Paul Anderson, a Pittsburgh civil engineer and a representative of the developers.
Anderson also said the research and technology park had the potential to be “a center of excellence for autonomous technology,” and was not aware of any similar autonomous vehicle testing grounds anywhere else in the United States.
South Fayette’s planning commission was due to vote on whether to green-light the proposal Thursday. If they sign off on it, commissioners are expected to vote on it at their next regular meeting Sept. 11. On Wednesday, they appeared enthusiastic. Commissioner Lisa Malosh said the proposal “sounds really exciting,” while fellow commissioner Raymond Pitetti said the plan “sounds awesome.”
Anderson would not reveal who is developing the site. His LinkedIn profile lists him as being the environmental, health and safety and facilities manager for the Pittsburgh office of Uber, the ridesharing company.
If approved, an observation tower could be built at the site, Anderson said. He also said it would feature traffic signals, the facades of buildings, fake trees and other features of a cityscape. Hybrid, autonomous vehicles are “a quiet system,” he explained, and the research and technology park would meet the township’s light and noise requirements.
Most experts say the United States is at least 10 years away from autonomous vehicles having widespread use, and Anderson said the park would allow the makers of autonomous vehicles to troubleshoot their product “in a controlled environment with stringent safety standards.”
Campbell Airport had a single runway and was a takeoff and landing strip for the owners of small airplanes. It ceased operations in the mid-1990s.