By David Highfield

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A billion dollars. That’s the investment Ford Motor Company is making in a Pittsburgh company to develop a system for self-driving cars.

Ford wants to sell a driverless car by the year 2021.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says this investment is very good news for our region.

“Once hearing it, I was ecstatic,” said Mayor Peduto. “Ford now will be hiring 200 people by the end of the year. That number will double, triple, quadruple within the next few years; committing a billion dollars over the five years.”

Ford has bought a majority stake in a company called Argo AI. The “AI” stands for artificial intelligence.

It was created by Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander, two CMU grads who used to work Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Institute in Lawrenceville. They’ve also been leaders on self-driving car teams for Google and Uber.

While cars that drive themselves may seem like science fiction, Pittsburgh appears to have become ground zero for making fiction a reality.

Uber is already testing driver-less cars in the city and has a massive track in Hazelwood.

Mayor Peduto says: “Uber now has committed a billion dollars, as well. They’ve employed over 700 people in Lawrenceville and in Hazelwood, and that number will probably grow to a 1,000.”

And just last month came news the Defense Department is getting into the picture.

“The Department of Defense with private corporations have now committed $253 million to go into Hazelwood to build the nation’s first autonomous manufacturing center,” said Mayor Peduto.

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The mayor believes the city is on road to something big: “What we hope to see is thousands, tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs coming back to Western Pa. for the 21st Century.”

The mayor says the city had been talking with Ford for about a year now.

Where in the city Argo AI will locate isn’t clear right now.

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