Pittsburgh, the Robot City

Pittsburgh. It’s the Steel City, the City of Bridges, the ‘Burgh, the City of Champions — and now it’s also the Robot City.

Pittsburgh counts itself in the Top 3 American Robotics cities, along with Boston and the Bay Area, according to Joel Reed, executive director at the Pittsburgh Robotics Network. “As we move more autonomy into our communities and daily lives, responsible development cannot be an afterthought,” Reed says. “We’ve got to lead with it, and Pittsburgh’s ecosystem is set up to support such a commitment.”

The Wall Street Journal even developed its own futuristic nickname for the ‘Burgh in 1999: Roboburgh.

Automation in Pittsburgh

Rexroth has an office in Pittsburgh,as well as a facility in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. One of the world leaders in motion control and automation, Rexroth is a thought leader in Industry 4.0 as well as one of the main actors.

Pittsburgh’s players also include makers of autonomous cars and other kinds of autonomous robots, traditional industrial robot builders, and companies creating automation for the logistics industry.

Carnegie Mellon University is a major player in robotics, of course. CMU’s Robotics Institute is the biggest robotics research and development center in the world. The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute is a public/private development spearheaded by CMU but it brings together more than 275 organizations from industry, government, and academia.

And the city of Pittsburgh has taken on the role of encouraging automation. If people are scared of the robot apocalypse, Pittsburgh says, let them come and see how the robotics industry has enriched and revived this former Rustbelt location.

Brain City is another nickname they’re working for.

Supporting robotics

Pennsylvania legalized food delivery bots at the end of last year, classifying them as pedestrians. While there are a few other states that count delivery bots as pedestrians, Pennsylvania allows them to be bigger (up to 550 pounds) and faster than the others.

PDDs, or Personal Delivery Devices, have to yield the right of way to human pedestrians and cyclists. Bu they are allowed to travel at 12 miles per hour, about four times normal human walking speed. They can hit 25 miles per hour in bike lanes, again faster than human cyclists.

Pittsburgh also has the first airport cleaned by autonomous disinfecting robots.

While these are specific examples of specific kinds of robots, they highlight the positive attitude Pittsburgh is developing and encouraging in its new role as Roboburgh.

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