With all of the amenities of a mini city, research takes flight at Pittsburgh International Airport

Carnegie Mellon University’s research partnership with Allegheny County Airport Authority began six years ago where most trips start: in the parking lot.

In 2013, School of Computer Science Research Professor Alex Hauptmann pulled into Pittsburgh International Airport’s giant parking lot. Round and round he drove, up and down the lanes. Minutes passed, as did dozens of filled parking spots. Finally, he found an empty one. And an idea.

“There had to be a better way,” Hauptmann remembers. “So I approached the airport with a concept to make parking easier.”

Hauptmann and his students developed an app that used real-time parking information that detected available spaces, tracked cars and enabled navigation.

And so began a collaboration between the university and Pittsburgh International that has since produced nearly a dozen other projects, from understanding how people get around the airport to what they buy.