In the year of AI, autonomous vehicles had a tough showing

Artificial intelligence exploded onto the scene in 2023.

In Pittsburgh alone, companies used the generative technology to teach math, choose paint schemes and serve sushi.

Yet for the city’s pioneer AI technology — autonomous vehicles — the story was a bit more complicated.

Carnegie Mellon University first piloted the autonomous “Terregator,” short for “Terrestrial Navigator” in 1984. Thirty years later, however, the technology that many predicted would be ubiquitous has failed to hit the mainstream…

There have been inroads.

Just this month, two Pittsburgh companies earned Department of Defense contracts to build driverless trucks for the military. The only problem? Only one will win. And there’s a third competitor from Maryland vying for the prototype crown…

Many AV companies pull the safety driver to show progress to investors, said Phil Koopman, a CMU professor who studies driverless technology. But that can have significant consequences.

“Once you pull out the driver, you’re not testing, you’re deployed,” he said.

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