The cameras on a pilot model of an Uber self-driving car are displayed at the Uber Advanced Technologies Center on September 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The cameras on a pilot model of an Uber self-driving car are displayed at the Uber Advanced Technologies Center on September 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Once a hub of steel production, Pittsburgh is now a hotspot for another burgeoning industry: artificial intelligence.

It’s home to Carnegie Mellon University, a trailblazer in A.I. research since the 1950s. And over the last few years, the city has caught the attention of tech giants in Silicon Valley — and now plays host to a variety of new projects.

In 2015, Uber hired researchers and engineers from the university’s robotics lab to run a self-driving car operation. The program was put on pause three years later after a fatal crash in Arizona involving an autonomous vehicle.

Earlier this year, Facebook opened an A.I. lab in Pittsburgh, staffed with university faculty.

From MIT Technology Review:

The symbolism of robots moving into a former steelworks is lost on few people in the city. Pittsburgh is reinventing itself, using the advances in automation, robots, and artificial intelligence coming out of its schools — particularly Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) — to try to create a high-tech economy.

[…] This has drawn billions of dollars from Silicon Valley and elsewhere, a welcome development in a city whose economy has been moribund for decades. And the effects are visible. Self-driving cars out for a test ride are a common sight, as are lines outside the trendy restaurants in what civic boosters call “Robotics Row.” While many longtime residents complain of skyrocketing home prices near the tech firms’ headquarters and test facilities, they’ll also tell you these are the best days the city has seen in their lifetimes.

How is A.I. shaping the city of Pittsburgh — and vice versa? And where is the industry headed?

Show produced by Avery Kleinman, text by Kathryn Fink.

Guests

  • Margaret Krauss Development and Transportation Reporter, WESA, Pittsburgh, PA; @MargaretKrauss
  • Martial Hebert Director, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Bryan Salesky CEO and Co-Founder, Argo AI
  • Karina Ricks Director, Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, City of Pittsburgh; @walk_left

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