By Shivani Gosai | Asst. Opinions Editor
Pretty soon, there will be another self-driving car in Pittsburgh.
Alongside Uber’s current project on autonomous cars, the major car brand Ford is planning on investing $1 billion into Pittsburgh for its own autonomous car technology.
Ford announced on Feb. 10 that it is investing the $1 billion over the next five years into Argo AI, which is a Pittsburgh-based startup that was founded late last year. The founders of the company, Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander, formerly worked for the self-driving car technologies at Uber and Google and are alumni of the Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center. Argo AI will be developing a virtual driver system for an autonomous car that the company hopes to launch with Ford in 2021.
This news is important and incredibly thrilling because it escalates Pittsburgh as a central hub of autonomous technology, really putting the city on the map for this field. Other research groups and companies have been working here for some time already; Uber has been testing its self-driving cars here for a few months, and Carnegie Mellon has been working on this technology for three decades. Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation selected Pittsburgh as one of the top 10 “proving grounds” for autonomous technology in the country.
Pittsburgh is really making strides in this growing industry, which will definitely lead to more jobs. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said Ford’s investment could translate into more than 1,000 jobs as Argo’s research progresses.
Argo AI announced on Feb. 23 that it will open its offices in the Strip District.
“It’s where Pete and I will be based, and we’ll be employing a number of engineers and scientists from the region,” Salesky said in an interview with the Tribune-Review. He also spoke about how Pittsburgh is well-suited for testing this technology because of its challenging topography and irregular street grid.
Although the idea of self-driving cars may make some people uneasy, Argo AI promises that self-driving cars have “the potential to improve road safety, reduce congestion and offer mobility to all.”
On Sunday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said she was reviewing self-driving vehicles and their safety and is urging companies to explain the benefits to the public. Saying self-driving cars could drastically improve our safety on the road, she noted research that 94 percent of traffic crashes were due to human error.
“There’s a lot at stake in getting this technology right,” Chao said.
It’s no surprise that more and more tech companies are looking to work in Pittsburgh. We can anticipate to continue to experience growth in this field, especially because of our major universities and hospitals. Argo AI and Ford are sure to create hundreds of jobs in Pittsburgh as the companies’ researching grows, and with that, we welcome them. Looking to the future of safe and efficient self-driving cars is exciting, and having it being done in Pittsburgh is even more exciting. This city has always been an epicenter for innovation, filled with talented and hard-working people to push that innovation forward. We can predict Pittsburgh to continue to play a major role in automation of the automotive industry, and broaden from there. We look forward to having Argo AI and Ford here to continue to help Pittsburgh’s strive toward autonomous tech innovation.