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CMU and Uber Team Up to Build Self-Driving Cars

Could Pittsburgh make self-driving cars mainstream?

If it’s up to Carnegie Mellon University and Uber, the answer to that question is yes.

Carnegie Mellon University has partnered with the ride-sharing company to create the Uber Advanced Technologies Center.

“The reason they’re coming to Pittsburgh, of course, is because we frankly are the world center of robotics,” Andrew Moore, CMU Dean of the School of Computer Science, said. “With the robotics institute here and the School of Computer Science here, we have a huge number of roboticists around, and so we’re teaming up together to help create this new center.”

He said they are focusing research on autonomous vehicles – self-driving cars.

“A lot of that kind of research begins with more basic work on mapping, making sure it’s very accurate and real-time information about the state of all the roads, and other aspects of sensing to be able to make sure that the vehicles understand everything that’s around them,” Moore said.

He said a lot of CMU Faculty has moved from the National Robotics Engineering Center to the Uber facility, and the partnership is going to extend onto campus. 

“This is because we actually do want to set up a deep relationship where we’re swapping people and ideas and research between the campus and Uber’s Advanced Technology Center,” Moore said.

He said Uber is also providing endowment funds for CMU to bring in additional graduate students as well as chairs to help hire new “super-star” senior faculty in the area of robotics.

“There’s a lot of interest around the world in autonomous driving,” Moore said. “No one knows when it’s going to become real – it could be, I would estimate somewhere between ten years to 30 years before this is really mainstream.”

But he said CMU and the Robotics Institute were the first to develop the technology.  In 2007, CMU won the Defense Department’s Urban Grand Challenge by having a car successfully, autonomously move around the city.

“There’s a lot of excitement, and there’s a real feeling at the moment both on campus and around town in the engineering community that Pittsburgh is coming of age as a world center, and I actually believe the world center for turning the dreams of robotics into actual, real robotic technology,” Moore said.

The Uber Advanced Technologies Center has been running for a few weeks and is based in Lawrenceville.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.