Posted Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 6:30pm
In what was once an industrial-age foundry along the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University has created a long-standing hub for the development of autonomous vehicle technology—the National Robotics Engineering Center.
The university’s pioneering work with the government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency dates back to 1984 and has led to the creation of many of the vehicles that occupy the facility today.
The building’s high bay has a crane capable of lifting 10 tons, and the huge open space is littered with prototypes with names like Crusher (an unmanned military ground vehicle), Chimp (a robot with thumbs that can grasp tools), and Boss (a 2007 Chevy Tahoe modified to drive itself).
Some of the center’s major clients—including NASA, Caterpillar, Ford Motor Co., John Deere, and multiple arms of the Defense Department—are underwriters of advanced autonomous vehicle technology.
Although much of this technology was originally intended for the battlefield, it has become increasingly clear in recent years that self-driving cars and trucks—animated by computer code—will be sharing the roads with ordinary drivers in the near future. And in places like Mountain View, Calif., Pittsburgh, and Phoenix, this is already happening in the form of on-the-road testing. Pittsburgh was also the place Uber chose to launch its prototype test fleet of self-driving taxis last year.