Self-Driving Car Company Chooses Pittsburgh for HQ

Global firm Aurora says Carnegie Mellon's robotics strength influenced decision

By Rick Wills

Published September 20, 2021

Read Time: 2 mins


Aurora, a self-driving car company valued at $13 billion, has selected Pittsburgh for its corporate headquarters – news welcomed by Pennsylvania’s elected officials and economic development organizations.

The company expects most of its 1,600 employees to work at new headquarters in the city’s Strip District neighborhood, next to Downtown.

“This is good for the city’s self-esteem. People have heard the Pittsburgh story,” said Brian Kennedy, senior vice president of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, an organization that works to attract and help technology companies in the region.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called Pittsburgh “the birthplace of automated vehicles” and said the company’s decision “further cements our talent and our industry as leaders in this space.”

Area Universities Spin Startups

The company is one of several automated driving companies in Pittsburgh. Along with another such firm, Argo AI, Aurora has roots in government-funded research at Carnegie Mellon University, home to one of the nation’s premier robotics programs.

“With its incredible universities and focus on innovation, Pittsburgh has been home to Aurora since we were founded, and we’re committed to continued growth right here in this community,” said Gerardo Interiano, Aurora’s vice president of government relations.

According to Kennedy, of the technology council, Carnegie Mellon University and its famed robotics program represent a strong foundation for this fast-growing part of Pittsburgh’s economy.

“This company is not just a startup,” he said of Aurora. “The company’s founders are legends in their fields. Chris Urmson can attract amazing people.”

Urmson, a faculty member of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon, has concentrated research on motion planning and perception for robotic vehicles. He led Google’s self-driving car project for nearly eight years, until 2016, before founding Aurora the next year.

Aurora has formed relationships with a variety of companies, including Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Amazon and several trucking companies.

Aurora sees its technology as particularly useful in long-haul trucking. Robots need neither food nor sleep, the company points out.

The company says it will launch driverless trucking in 2023, followed by autonomously driven ride-hailing in 2024.

Aurora tests its vehicles in the San Francisco Bay area, Pittsburgh, and North Texas. The company has offices in those areas as well as in Seattle, Bozeman, Mont.; Louisville, Colo.; and Wixom, Mich.

Aurora Donates to Local Schools

To mark the headquarters announcement, Aurora is donating $65,000 to fund STEM-related requests from Pittsburgh teachers via DonorsChoose – a way to support future generations of technologists as they start the new school year.

The donation funds various  projects, including helping third graders get supplies to build mock volcanoes; purchasing a color printer for a fifth-grade classroom; and funding a digital microscope, science experiment books and an incubator for hatching chicken eggs.

“With a firm belief in the future of this city and its workforce, we’re excited to have our corporate headquarters here and be making a donation that will help fund the city’s next generation of technologists and roboticists,” Interiano said.

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