Peduto expects more jobs, city partnerships from Ford and Argo AI

The mayor is feeling positive about this latest self-driving car deal.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle at the 2017 North American International Auto Show.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle at the 2017 North American International Auto Show.

courtesy of Ford
MJ Slaby

Mayor Bill Peduto said he thinks Ford will bring just as many self-driving vehicle development jobs to Pittsburgh as Uber has.

Peduto said Uber now has more than 700 employees between locations in the Strip District and Hazelwood with 100 more jobs posted.

“I anticipate that Ford will be similar,” Peduto said after an unrelated press conference Tuesday. Ford’s investment in Pittsburgh-based Argo AI has promised 200 jobs by the end of the year in Pittsburgh and locations in Michigan and California.

Although Argo AI was founded last year, the mayor said he had no previous conversations with the company now responsible for the “virtual driver system” in Ford’s self-driving cars due out in 2021. But he did say he knew some of Argo AI’s leaders from their time at Uber and Google.

Ford announced Friday that it was investing $1 billion into Argo AI, and on Monday, Peduto met with Dan Beaven, Argo AI CFO. Beaven previously worked at Uber at and Carnegie Robotics, which is a spinoff of the National Robotics Engineering Center.

The “conversation couldn’t have been better,” Peduto said Tuesday. “They are very big on Pittsburgh. They made it a condition of the deal with Ford that the headquarters would be based in Pittsburgh.”

But the mayor said he’s not sure about the company’s real estate needs following the deal with Ford. He did say that Ford won’t be in the Strip District with Uber.

Ford and Argo AI join Delphi, Uber and CMU in self-driving car development and research in Pittsburgh. And that’s the way Peduto has said he wants it.

The Mayor previously told The Incline that the goal has always been to have companies doing research, development and manufacturing here. (He also said that he’s in preliminary talks with Google.)

Peduto recently criticized Uber, following the #DeleteUber campaign sparked by President Donald Trump’s travel and immigration ban. The mayor told The Incline that he’s been disappointed in the company multiple times when trying to create further partnerships.

And so, Peduto said Tuesday that “some of the conversations we had with Uber, we brought back with Ford.”

He said Argo AI has “big ideas on how to promote this region to bring about even more jobs and to be able to be a partner with the city on initiatives that would benefit both.”

But as for specifics, Peduto said he expects more meetings with Ford first.

The mayor said the city has “been talking to them (Ford) for about eight months,” dating back to Pittsburgh’s Smart City Challenge. He said conversations then were more along the lines of a Ford presence in Pittsburgh through a handful of researchers pairing with CMU.

“Never had I imagined they’d make an investment this big,” Peduto said.

Reporter Sarah Anne Hughes contributed to this article.