Welcome to our weekly roundup of Pittsburgh technology news by noted local tech writer David Radin. Got tech news? Email us. And check back every Thursday for more. 

Expanded non-stop flights to San Francisco give Pittsburgh tech companies more options

Tech executives in Pittsburgh doing business in Silicon Valley during the winter used to have to take the long way through a connecting city, since no nonstop flights operated in January or February. No longer. United Airlines will now be operating its nonstop service to San Francisco year-round and adding a second flight from June through October.

The westbound flight moves to 5:30 p.m. with the eastbound flight departing San Francisco at 8:40 a.m. and arriving near the end of the business day in Pittsburgh.

The additional westbound flight during the summer and fall will leave PIT at 7:20 a.m., landing in San Francisco early enough (9:50 a.m.) to conduct same-day business in California.

Pennsylvania lawmakers want to regulate self-driving vehicles, but politicians say they can’t ban them

Technology has a habit of being ahead of regulations, and it looked like the long gestation period for self-driving cars would help change that. Pennsylvania lawmakers had introduced Senate Bill 427 in February to change statewide laws which currently only require a backup driver in the vehicle.

When a woman got hit and killed in Arizona recently by an Uber car — which was manned by a driver who was reportedly looking down at the time — suddenly the law was behind the curve again. Pittsburgh’s mayor and Pennsylvania’s governor were being asked to follow the lead of Arizona’s governor, who banned autonomous vehicles from the streets in his state.  Governor Wolf’s office said the state law doesn’t give them authority as long as the backup driver is in place. Mayor Peduto’s office said the decision is reserved for the state and federal level.

The robots are coming — by land, water and air

With Pittsburgh’s strong reputation for robotics evolving over the past 20 years, it was only a matter of time until the technology community came together to chat about robotic devices that operate in various environments. On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Entrepreneurs Forum brought together five local robotics CEOs Downtown to discuss how they are differentiating their products, competing for the best robotics engineers and applying their technologies to help a wide variety of industries including environmental, manufacturing, agriculture and navigation.

Zensors picks up CMU’s McGuinnis Competition top prize

Zensors, a CMU spinout, won $25,000 in funding at the McGinnis Venture Competition on Tuesday. The company uses sensors, cameras and artificial intelligence to collect and analyze data in offices, restaurants and shops. The resulting business information helps with various decisions such as whether and how to redesign the space and how people are acting within your environment.

Pittsburgh hosts its first “Shark Tank” casting call, drawing 300 pitches

For the first time in the show’s 10-year run, ABC’s “Shark Tank” came to Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino for a casting call. Three hundred entrepreneurs from Pittsburgh and around the country went to the event with the hope of getting one of the 90-100 spots that air on TV during the upcoming season.

Rivers Casino is not the only casino that has hosted casting calls for the show. According to Mindy Zemrak, supervising casting producer for the show, they’ve conducted the event at casinos in other cities including Dallas and of course, several times in Las Vegas.

Upcoming business, career and networking events

Funding for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Sources
April 3, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Collier Township Municipal Building

CMU Energy Week – Investing in our Energy Future
April 3 through 6 at the Jared L. Cohon University Center at CMU