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Carnegie Mellon, Uber to Collaborate to Develop Driverless Vehicles

The announcement on Monday occurred about a week after the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission gave Uber permission to operate across the state, excluding Philadelphia, for at least the next two years.

by Tom Fontaine and Bobby Kerlik - The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review / February 3, 2015
Source: Uber

(TNS) Feb. 03--Ride-share company Uber and Carnegie Mellon University will develop a research lab in Pittsburgh focused on developing self-driving vehicles and other technologies, company and university officials said Monday.

"We are excited to join the community of Pittsburgh and partner with the experts at CMU, whose breadth and depth of technical expertise, particularly in robotics, are unmatched," said Jeff Holden, chief product officer at Uber.

In a joint statement, Uber and CMU said the Uber Advanced Technologies Center will be built near CMU's National Robotics Engineering Center in Lawrenceville. It will occupy portions of two nearby buildings, including the Geoffrey Boehm Chocolates building.

The company said its technology leaders will work with CMU faculty, staff and students, both on campus and at the robotics center, to develop "key long-term technologies that advance Uber's mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere."

Uber will provide funding for faculty chairs and graduate fellowships at the Oakland school, Holden said during a conference call with reporters Monday night.

He declined to say how many jobs the center would generate, but he said Uber and Carnegie Mellon are collaborating.

Holden said the center primarily will house Uber employees, many with ties to CMU.

Uber and other ride-share companies connect passengers and drivers through Internet applications. Uber and Lyft faced pushback from legislators, regulators and established taxi and limo companies when they began service in Pennsylvania last year.

The announcement on Monday occurred about a week after the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission gave Uber permission to operate across the state, excluding Philadelphia, for at least the next two years. That approval did not resolve whether Uber should be subject to a proposed $19 million in fines for ignoring a cease-and-desist order.

"We are very excited by this development," said Andrew Moore, dean of CMU's School of Computer Science. "We have a long history of being first in the world in robotics."

Moore said the university looks forward to working with Uber on real-world applications that "offer very interesting new challenges at the intersections of technology, mobility and human interactions."

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto described the effort as "another case where collaboration between the city and its universities is creating opportunities for job growth and community development."

CMU is a leader in research on self-driving vehicles. In 2007, a self-driving sport utility vehicle the university developed with General Motors won a 60-mile road race sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The SUV, called "Boss," maneuvered around the course at an average speed of 14 mph without any human intervention, en route to a $2 million prize. CMU maintains a research partnership with GM.

Moore said the GM partnership will "proceed as planned."

"After so many years of being 'Robo-Burg,' we're getting attention. It's a great opportunity," said Audrey Russo, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

Tom Fontaine and Bobby Kerlik are Trib Total Media staff writers. Reach Fontaine at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com. Reach Kerlik at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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