“We’re definitely in a colder period now,” said John Dolan, a systems engineer and professor at the CMU Argo AI Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research. “A bit of an autonomous driving winter perhaps, as we’ve seen with some of these recent closures. I just don’t know how it’s going to go in the future.”
Pittsburgh put itself on the autonomy map in 2007, when Carnegie Mellon University’s Tartan Racing team won the DARPA Urban Challenge, a 60-mile driverless race. Notable alumni of the CMU team include Urmson; Raj Rajkumar, director of Mobility21, a smart transportation initiative; Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO of Argo AI; and Dave Ferguson, co-founder and president of Nuro, another AV company.
In 2008, General Motors revitalized an early 2000s partnership with CMU to advance driverless technology. The industry really started rolling a few years later. “In the middle 2010s, I was getting contacted on almost a weekly basis by reporters asking about what was going to make the difference,” said Dolan. “What were the gaps in autonomous driving technology? When were things going to be broadly deployed on roads?”