“Almost all the self-driving car technology anywhere — almost everyone in charge of it went to Carnegie Mellon,” says one of those poachees, Uber’s director of hardware engineering, Eric Meyhofer, whom I spoke with before my car ride. He’s a ’94 CMU grad who spent seven years working in Silicon Valley and then returned to his native Pittsburgh and took a special faculty position devoted to commercializing products developed by the Robotics Institute. The field is ready for its commercial moment. The CMU robotics program began with a grant from Westinghouse, and it’s always been unabashed about commercializing its inventions. In the past five years, the Robotics Institute has spun off 13 companies.