Argo AI Wants To Prepare The World For Autonomous Cars

Nov 12, 2019

On today's program: Argo AI’s CEO explores the future of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh; Hazelwood’s neighborhood plan gets approved after years of work by residents; and Honor Flight Pittsburgh is taking veterans on tours of Capitol memorials free of charge.

Argo AI is blanketed in Pittsburgh's first snow of the season Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2019.
Credit Ed Harris / 90.5 WESA

  AVs are about readying consumers, not the technology
(00:00 — 16:42) 

Argo AI ranks among the most valued startups in Pittsburgh, thanks in part to billion dollar partnerships with Ford and Volkswagen. With the eyes of the industry on the company’s Strip District headquarters, is there pressure to unveil a finished product? CEO Bryan Salesky says no. 

Argo AI wants to deploy a ride-sharing fleet that could relieve congestion in dense urban areas, not take consumer-grade cars off the road. If users want to drive, that option will always be there, Salesky says. But for those who don't, Salesky tells The Confluence’s Megan Harris that it's up to his team to prepare society mentally and emotionally for technology already at hand.

“I tell the story about the fact that some day you won’t have to have that ‘take the keys’ conversation from your parents or grandmother, people start to switch on to this pretty quickly,” he says. “I think there’s a lot of misinformation in the field right now about autonomous vehicles. I think people don’t know what to make of them and don't know why they’re on the streets so we need to do a better job of telling these stories.”

Salesky points to blogs on the company’s website and continued a newly launched podcast. Deployment is coming, he says, and "Pittsburgh remains an important part" of the test and development phase. "As far as how it goes to market and which cities are first and second and that sort of thing is totally being discussed. We don't have anything to announce there just yet."

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is among the many memorials Honor Flight Pittsburgh participants visit during their day trips to Washington D.C.
Credit Bob Boren / 90.5 WESA

Hazelwood residents help guide neighborhood development
(17:53 — 24:15) 

A two-year planning process came to an end last week when the Greater Hazelwood Community Plan was approved by the Pittsburgh Planning Commission. Margaret J. Krauss, 90.5 WESA’s development and transportation reporter, says the process was spearheaded by the city's department of City Planning and the Greater Hazelwood Community Collaborative, which is made up of community groups as well as state and local officials. 

Honor Flight saluting veterans with free trips to D.C.
(24:18 — 39:07) 

The local arm of a national organization takes Pittsburgh-area veterans on all-expenses-paid trips to Washington D.C. to take in the monuments built in their honor. Joining The Confluence to talk about Honor Flight Pittsburgh’s mission and the group’s recent trips are: 

  • Beth Reuschel, fundraising chair on Honor Flight’s local board of directors;
  • Bob Kunkle, former board member and Marine Corps veteran. He served in Vietnam before joining the Army National Guard;
  • Ila Cole, a veteran of the Navy WAVES program during World War II; and,
  • Vickie Hajduk, a veteran of the Women’s Army Corps during the Vietnam War. She later served more than 30 years active duty with the Army National Guard.

Reuschel says the trips are so popular they're expanding to three trips in 2020. Volunteers, guardians and attendees can apply for upcoming flights here

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.