Autonomous tech / Events / Hiring / Pittsburgh / Robotics

Aurora and the Pittsburgh Robotics Network want to make it clear: They’re here to stay, and grow

The AV company is hiring and taking on new partnerships during a time when others in its industry have struggled, as an Aurora exec told during the membership org's event.

Pittsburgh Robotics Network's April happy hour at Aurora. (Photo by Atiya Irvin-Mitchell)
Aurora and the Pittsburgh Robotics Network want the city to know they plan to be fixtures inside and outside of the region for years to come.

Following a tough few months for their shared industry in Pittsburgh, the autonomous vehicle company and the membership org brought 300 robotics enthusiasts to Aurora’s Strip District HQ.

PRN represents over a hundred robotics organizations in the region. During the Wednesday evening event, Joel Reed and Jenn Apicella, respectively PRN’s executive director and vice president, announced the network was expanding its membership to allow companies — including those outside of Pittsburgh — new ways to benefit from the city’s robotics scene.

Event host Aurora is a founding member of PRN. Gerardo Interiano, VP of government relations and public affairs for the AV company, said the benefits of belonging to the nonprofit network is that it connects the industry’s players and spotlights the different forms of technology coming out of Pittsburgh.

“It’s an opportunity for those of us that work in this space to network to get to know one another, to collaborate to find ways to have an impact in the community,” Interiano told “And the organization is also a great champion for the community. They are in some ways a megaphone that gets you to go and tell the stories about the great things that companies are doing.”

Industry leaders see Pittsburgh as a rising robotics hub — the “robotics capital of the world,” even — but over the past year, from layoffs to outright closures, not all of its companies have fared well.

But Aurora is preparing for growth. Interiano attributed the company’s steady position to its strong business model and its willingness to partner with other successful companies.

“We believe we have the right people for the right talent, we believe that Pittsburgh is a great place for us to be hiring that talent.”Gerardo Interiano Aurora

“Instead of having us build our own vehicle[s], we’re partnering with Packer and Volvo to put our technology on their trucks, and then we’re identifying customers like FedEx, Warner and Schneider,” Interiano said. “I think that partnership model is one of the big differentiators. At the end of the day, we believe we have the right people for the right talent, we believe that Pittsburgh is a great place for us to be hiring that talent.”

Interiano added that Aurora’s ties to Carnegie Mellon University, where two of its founders graduated, had helped the company secure a number of beneficial partnerships.

The company is planning for a commercial launch in 2024, and earlier in the week, it announced it had reached feature complete status for its autonomous driving system, Aurora Driver. Another development that Interiano said bodes well for Aurora’s future was the 2022 passage of HB 2398, which waived the previous human driver requirement during AV testing in Pennsylvania. With this constraint gone, Interiano said, the company and the AV industry as a whole will be better able to grow in the Commonwealth.

“Now that this legislation is passed, by working with PennDOT, the governor’s office, and the legislature, we have that predictability to know that when we are ready to remove the human driver from our vehicles, that we’re going to be able to deploy that technology here in the state,” he said.

Amid national concerns over inflation and a possible recession, the plan for Aurora, Interiano said, is to continue using its resources wisely. The 1,700-person company will also continue hiring, with a focus on engineers and especially those who can work on perception and autonomy.

With universities like CMU and the University of Pittsburgh so close to Aurora’s HQ, Interiano said, the company is eager to take advantage of the talent the city produces.

“The talent pool that is here in Pittsburgh that’s coming from the universities, but also from the other robotics companies that are here,” he said, “gives us a really good opportunity to go hire talent that may not be accessible in other parts of the country.”

Speaking of other robotics companies: Look for more details about PRN’s expanded membership program soon.

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Pittsburgh Robotics Network / Aurora

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