Why Pittsburgh is one of America's autonomous vehicle hubs and the tech it needs to solidify its status – Pittsburgh Business Times

When the Model T rolled off the assembly line in 1908, nobody could’ve predicted that a scant 113 years later, Americans would be clamoring to hop behind the wheel and leave the driving up to the car itself. Like something that would’ve once been featured in the pages of a fantasy novel, the autonomous vehicles (AVs) that once lived in the heads of visionaries, authors and filmmakers are now hitting the streets in testing modes, hoping to make convenient chauffeuring cars a widely used technology.
According to a new study released in September commissioned by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RDIC) and the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, Pittsburgh ranks seventh in the list of cities with the most autonomous mobility-related companies. Out of a total of 1,848 companies, Pittsburgh is home to a total of 60 establishments, holding 3.2% of the market share, but comes in second to only the Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan region in terms of the estimated percentage of major multinational or significant AV companies located there. Major names that call Pittsburgh home include Aurora, Argo AI, Motional, Locomation, Uber, and most recently Waymo, which started as Google’s self-driving car project in 2009 and opened a Pittsburgh office earlier this year.
So why Pittsburgh? It’s no secret the city is home to some of the nation’s top universities, known for their world-class, interdisciplinary programs primarily in the areas of robotics and engineering. Pittsburgh happens to foster one of the most supportive environments for AV testing. In March 2019, the city became the first to put out objectives and expectations around the testing of autonomous vehicles in the city known as the Pittsburgh Principles, proving its leadership in the AV sector.
As a result of universities turning out top talent and a favorable testing environment, the city is quickly becoming a vibrant hub for those responsible for making unprecedented advancements in research and development for maps, vehicle safety and autonomous driving.
In addition to showing the current state of AV technology, the RDIC study mentioned above sets out a plan to cement Pittsburgh and the Southwestern Pennsylvania region’s status as a global leader in autonomous vehicle systems and technology. What that will require, according to the report, is a commitment to building out Pittsburgh’s technology ecosystem. Cities that can better their ecosystems will be rewarded handsomely for their efforts, as the report places the global terrestrial autonomous mobile systems market at an estimated $802 billion by 2025-26. With aerial, marine and defense AV tech added in, the total is well above $1 trillion, according to the report.
With dynamic and constantly changing environments, these emerging organizations all tend to face a common issue — an increasing need for fast and reliable network bandwidth. Enterprises seeking to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and other applications to transform the automotive sector require large-scale bandwidth connections that not only meet their bandwidth needs now but also scale easily for their future bandwidth demands.
Additionally, many organizations require access to cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, which are popular with startups due to the minimal physical hardware and space required to operate. However, organizations need to determine what blend of physical/cloud infrastructure they are comfortable with as connectivity to one’s cloud service is typically done through a dedicated connection or internet.
Organizations in the autonomous vehicle sector share the desire to be prepared for anything. They require the connectivity and bandwidth to be able to react and respond quickly to changes in their environment without delay so they are not left behind. In short, they need a provider that can stay one step ahead and be prepared for the next request. AV technology itself is revolutionary, but it requires a solid foundation in fiber optic networks that can power the advancements that will shape our future for years to come. It’s another case of how terrestrial networks really are powering what was once a work of science fiction.
To receive a free network assessment with a DQE associate, visit go.dqecom.com/inno or call 1-866-GO-FIBER.
DQE is a fiber optic internet and data networking provider for businesses and carriers. A subsidiary of Duquesne Light Holdings, DQE was established in 1997 to provide customizable network services. The company’s continually expanding fiber optic network currently spans thousands of miles and over 2,400 buildings, 118 business parks and 17 data centers.
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