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Aurora Acquires Uber's ATG Self-Driving Car Unit

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Uber's self-driving unit had hundreds of cars in town. Aurora's head of government relations says it's not yet clear if they will begin to take those out on the road, now that Aurora has acquired Uber ATG.

On today's program: We hear what’s next for Aurora since acquiring Uber’s self-driving branch; and the Pittsburgh Mercy President and CEO on what’s different about opening winter shelters this year for unhoused residents.

Aurora acquires self-driving technology to competitor, Uber ATG.
(0:00 - 8 :58)

Autonomous vehicle start-up Aurora is acquiring Uber’s self driving unit, Uber Advanced Technologies Group. Under the deal, Uber is reportedly giving up its equity in ATG, along with investing $400 million in Aurora in exchange for a 26 percent share in Aurora.

Gerardo Interiano, Vice President of Government Relations at Aurora’s Pittsburgh office, says the deal creates an opportunity for Aurora to become stronger.

“It’s also a testament that Uber believes that we are the company that’s gonna be able to deliver this technology broadly,” says Interiano. It’s a more clear path to “deliver the Aurora driver,” he adds.

With the acquisition, Aurora says it will bring a majority of the ATG team into the company, increasing its Pittsburgh presence.

Unlike other local competitors, like Uber ATG and Argo AI, Aurora doesn’t have as many cars out on the road. Despite acquiring ATG’s fleet, Interiano says Aurora hasn’t decided if it will take those out on the road immediately. It’s Aurora’s responsibility, he says, to gain the public’s trust in their self-driving cars.

Aurora’s primary goal has been autonomous trucking, but the acquisition, says Interiano, will allow Aurora to have more insight into passenger mobility.

Along with the technology, Aurora acquiring Uber ATG means a blending of work cultures. Aurora has an explicit “no jerks” policy. Interiano says Aurora’s company culture won’t change, and that those who are joining Aurora from ATG are those who can align with the same “no jerk” values.

“I think you have to work with individuals and understand where they're coming from, and I think part of this comes down from our leadership,” says Interiano. He says Aurora CEO Chris Urmson sets the standard for the company culture.

Winter shelters have less capacity, but more services for unhoused Pittsburghers
(9:03 - 18:00)

Pittsburgh Mercy opened two winter shelters to serve unhoused Pittsburghers this season: one for men at Smithfield United Church, downtown, and the women’s shelter at Shepherd’s Heart Uptown.

At a time when need is greater than ever, these shelters also have to contend with safety protocols because of the pandemic.
Pittsburgh Mercy President and CEO Tony Beltransays they have followed guidance from the CDC, while also getting support from Allegheny County’s Public Health and Human Services Departments.

“One of the things that really did change was the number of individuals we could serve at a shelter,” says Beltran. In year’s past, Pittsburgh Mercy would set up one shelter to serve more than 100 people. This year, the two shelters can serve up to 80 people combined.

Despite the two shelters and restrictions like social distancing, Beltran says there are still lots of services available, like laundry, food, and medical services, including telehealth.

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services also offers hotel rooms through a program called “Safe Haven Hotel”for people with comorbidities who may be at higher risk of complications if they contracted the coronavirus.

“Some are afraid of coming into congregate settings,” says Beltran. “But I think more and more as they see the protocols, and the weather gets colder, we’ll start to see those numbers increase.”

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.

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