New Study Proposes Autonomy Sector Strategic Plan

Prepared by: Simon Tripp, Joseph Simkins, Deborah Cummings, Martin Grueber, and Dylan Yetter at TEConomy Partners, LLC 

Performed for: Regional Industrial Development Corporation and the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, with funding support provided by the Richard King Mellon Foundation 

With special thanks to the autonomy steering committee: the RK Mellon Foundation, Carnegie Mellon University, Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC), Pittsburgh Technology Council, Pittsburgh Robotics Network, Argo AI, Aurora, and 





Autonomy in the News

Autonomy is an unprecedented and transformational opportunity 

Pittsburgh is a region of makers and innovators. Our region has shown time and time again that we can come together and remake ourselves through innovation, determination and sheer grit. Today the Pittsburgh region is faced with a new transformational opportunity, the opportunity presented by the autonomous mobile systems sector, or autonomy.  As has long been predicted, Pittsburgh’s autonomy sector has reached a critical mass; it has grown organically from an emerging to an established cluster with the opportunity to dominate the global market in autonomous mobile systems. A new report issued by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) and the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce with research conducted by TEConomy Partners confirms autonomy’s regional growth and recommends strategic action for the region.

The culmination of a nine months-long study Forefront: Securing Pittsburgh’s Break-out Position in Autonomous Mobile Systems”finds that the Pittsburgh region is well-positioned to become one of the top centers for autonomous mobile systems — a sector predicted to grow to a $1 trillion+ global market by 2026, with an estimated 5,000 jobs and a $10 billion impact for a region that captures 1 percent of that global market growth. 

The regional opportunity presented by autonomy:

An estimated 5,000 jobs and a $10 billion impact for a region that captures one percent of the global market in the next five years 

A strategy to grow a diversity of family-sustaining jobs for our region, both degree-requiring and not

A path to rebuilding the regional economy by spreading autonomy testing, deployment and manufacturing opportunities 

Key Findings: The Pittsburgh region is a nationally recognized autonomy center positioned for growth

The Pittsburgh autonomy sector has grown from an emerging to an established cluster with the potential to serve as an economic development engine for the region. TEConomy analyzed the economic impact of 71 local firms (or in cases of major multinational corporations, the divisions, or operating units of those firms), which were identified as having core business operations primarily serving the autonomy sector.  

The estimated direct employment footprint of Pittsburgh’s autonomy sector totals over 6,300 jobs which provide an estimated $651 million in labor income, $34.7 million in state and local tax revenues, and $126.7 million in federal tax revenues.  These companies generated an additional 8,604 full- or part-time indirect jobs, bringing the total number of jobs in the region that are dependent on the industry to 14,923 jobs.  

The profile of Pittsburgh autonomy sector today:

Total Direct Jobs


Total Economic Output

$2.9 Billion




Nationally in Autonomous Business Establishment Volume


Nationally in Concentration of Autonomy Market Leaders
labor income impact


direct local, state and federal tax revenues


total jobs in the region


$490 Million

invested in the sector

Diverse Base of Companies Operating in Autonomous Mobile Systems Verticals within the Pittsburgh Ecosystem 

Of the major regions, Pittsburgh has the most diversified market and is an industry leader in four concentrations 

Other key findings include: 

  • Pittsburgh’s diverse base of autonomy companies is a crucial competitive strength that can help the region remain agile to shifts in broader markets as adoption of autonomy solutions grows. 
  • Pittsburgh has an R&D-intensive industry; it does not yet have widely productized goods and services or large-volume consumer bases, which it needs for long-term autonomy sector eminence. 
  • While Pittsburgh is an R&D center, companies are choosing to locate testing infrastructure investments and jobs in other states that have the environmental and regulatory conditions companies find attractive – which is likely to continue unless the region updates its regulatory framework. 
  • Pittsburgh’s future within this increasingly competitive space is far from assured; the region cannot take a passive stance and rely solely on existing industry and innovation activities. 

The study also identified several risks to the region's autonomy sector growth:

Regional Competition: 

Other states are and have been investing in signature state programs, incentives, and infrastructure for autonomy

Challenging regulatory environment for testing and deployment: 

While Pittsburgh is an R&D center, companies are choosing to locate testing infrastructure investments and jobs in other states  

Insufficient coordinated support: 

Much of the sector’s growth to date has been organic, but coordinated support is needed to progress  

The study offers a six-part strategic plan to root autonomy in the region, and grow its opportunities for all

Although Pittsburgh is an established hub, its gains are at risk due to regional competition, a challenging regulatory environment for testing and deployment, and insufficient coordinated support for the sector, the study found.

 The study offers a six-part strategic plan with specific strategies to reinforce the region’s current strengths, attract and retain talent, and root emerging companies in the region.    

Realizing the Vision for Pittsburgh’s Autonomy Ecosystem

While autonomous on-road vehicles are the mostly widely known applications of autonomy, they are only a part of a much wider landscape for autonomous mobile systems applications. Enabled by new technology convergence areas, significant change is coming to physical devices of any scale that both move and may be equipped with some form of sensing and decision-making system to intelligently perform tasks and navigate their environment. Many tasks that require human or machine spatial movement are potential prospects for automated mobile systems approaches, and this opens up vast and diverse market potentials for disruptive industries.  

There is a large-scale economic development opportunity for regions that have a competitive edge in technologies and talent required to research, develop, and build complex integrated autonomous mobile systems products. 


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