Venture capital dries up for Pittsburgh driverless car startups, prompting a call for diversification

For the third quarter of 2022, $5.5 billion was invested in the sector, down 55% from the previous quarter and 79% lower than the same period a year ago, according to PitchBook, a Seattle-based company that tracks investments.

Turning back the revenue spigot for startups has meant lean days for entrepreneurs.

“It’s been very difficult for a startup in the last three or four months, both here and nationally,” said Matthew Johnson-Roberson, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, which recently expanded on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill’s business district. “There’s just been this big pullback.”

Robotics is a growing part of the Pittsburgh-area economy, with more than 100 companies supporting 15,000 jobs and drawing $3.4 billion in venture capital and private equity since 2012, according to the Pittsburgh Robotics Network. Driverless vehicles are a small part of the sector, which has been dented recently by the layoffs at Locomation and the shuttering of Argo AI.