Pittsburgh’s self-driving car boom means $200,000 pay packages for robotics grads

Pilot models of the Uber self-driving car are displayed at the Uber Advanced Technologies Center on September 13, 2016, in Pittsburgh.

Angelo Merendino | AFP | Getty Images

Pilot models of the Uber self-driving car are displayed at the Uber Advanced Technologies Center on September 13, 2016, in Pittsburgh.

There’s a war for talent in Pittsburgh’s booming autonomous car market.

It started with Uber and now includes Argo AI, which is majority owned by Ford, and a start-up called Aurora Innovation. With so much hiring, it’s a good time to be at the city’s prized academic institution, Carnegie Mellon University.

Andrew Moore, the dean of Carnegie Mellon’s computer science school, said that computer vision graduates right out of college are commanding pay packages of $200,000, which he described as “unheard of for any role until recently.”

In addition to Uber, Argo and Aurora, Moore said there’s a fourth self-driving car company in Pittsburgh that’s not yet talking publicly.

“One of the effects is this dramatic salary rise for anyone with robotics engineering skills,” said Moore, whose background is in artificial intelligence and robotics. “It does feel very much like a gold rush town at the moment.”

Moore, who previously spent eight years at Google and ran the company’s Pittsburgh office, estimates that there are 1,000 to 2,000 people in the city working on autonomous driving. Pittsburgh has become the de facto capital for self-driving car development, thanks to Carnegie Mellon’s top-ranked robotics program and the city’s openness to partnering with tech companies on risky endeavors.

Despite all of Uber’s legal, cultural and management troubles, the ride-hailing company is aggressively hiring in Pittsburgh. Uber currently has 60 job openings there in its advanced technologies group, which houses the self-driving engineering team.

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