Archive

Editorial: Amazon money coming to Pittsburgh without HQ2 | TribLIVE.com
Editorials

Editorial: Amazon money coming to Pittsburgh without HQ2

737464selfdriving1bbb84bcd30c11e88c22fa2ef74bd6d6
Handout
Sterling Anderson, Chris Urmson and Drew Bagnell are the three founders of Aurora Innovation, a company that creates software for self-driving cars. MUST CREDIT: Photo of Aurora Innovation

So what if Amazon doesn’t want to build a second headquarters to Pittsburgh?

Southwestern Pennsylvania is more than capable of becoming the home of the next big thing in technology.

That’s not just sour grapes. It’s an awareness of what is in the backyard.

Pittsburgh and its surrounding areas are not just home to a lot of bridges and tunnels and sports fans. There is a dense wealth of scientific knowledge, technical skill and creativity.

Like Aurora Innovation.

The Pittsburgh-headquartered start-up company wants to change the way people drive. Actually, it wants to change the way people don’t drive, putting the car in charge via self-driving technology that would improve safety, give people more time in their day and potentially change the landscape of our cities, according to the company.

That’s exactly the kind of visionary thinking that investors like to hear, and when it’s backed up by a team of developers that are breaking new ground where technology and transportation overlap, that’s even better. A hefty chunk of that team, by the way, learned to do what they do at Carnegie Mellon University, which appears on any list of the top robotics programs in the country.

Last week, Aurora got an infusion of investment cash. The $530 million came from some big hitters, including T. Rowe Price and Sequoia Capital — the big dog of tech investment with a portfolio of ground floors that includes Apple, Google, PayPal and YouTube.

And then there was Amazon, which has famously sought to explore new delivery avenues right up Aurora’s alley.

“Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive, whether it’s in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we’re excited about the possibilities,” Amazon’s spokesperson said in an email Friday.

The mother of all online retailers had cities across the country self-selling and outbidding each other to become the Seattle-based giant’s HQ2. But finalist Pittsburgh didn’t get that $2.5 million or so that will go into Queens, N.Y., and Washington, D.C., as they split that honor.

Aurora, however, will get more than 20 percent of it, and in a lot of ways, that’s better.

Companies that come into a community and take over can just as easily depart, leaving behind the shell that was built around them.

Investment in a home-grown seedling, however, doesn’t just provide roots. It provides time. Aurora can develop at its own speed, navigate its own course and keep its (robotic) eyes on Pittsburgh’s roads.