FOREFRONT: Securing Pittsburgh’s Break-out Position in Autonomous Mobile Systems.

Prepared by: 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

Advancements in technology and the forces of convergence are impacting almost every industry and creating significant emerging growth opportunities. Some legacy industries are facing significant change as a result of new business models enabled by convergence of multiple technologies, while other entirely new industries are emerging. In one such area, multiple technology domains are converging to enable the development of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) which have the potential to not only impact the characteristics of the vehicles themselves but create fundamental shifts in the future of mobility and the infrastructure that vehicles use and interface with. In recent years, major investments and prototyping efforts have focused public attention on this applications area and captured the imagination of industry and policymakers seeking to advance the next generation of technology-based industries.

While autonomous on-road vehicles are one of most publicized applications of autonomy (the ability of a machine to make decisions without the intervention of a human), 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 of the country that have a distinctive position in the technologies and talent required to research, develop, and build complex integrated autonomous mobile systems products. It is a very specialized space, however, and as Figure ES1 illustrates, the “full stack” of technologies needed to advance such products to prototyping and end market applications is quite complex.

To bring autonomous mobile systems solutions to market, it is not sufficient to build capacity in any one component of the technology stack. Rather, the goal of full deployment of autonomous end market solutions requires capabilities (or the ability to reliably source those capabilities) across the entire technology stack, as well as the means of linking the capabilities in each layer of the stack so that a system can perform as a fully integrated platform rather than a partial solution that requires further commercialization by others. Regions who are able to build out their technology ecosystems to support this type of integration will be poised to realize major economic growth. Triangulating results from multiple recent market research reports places the terrestrial autonomous mobile systems market alone at an estimated $802 billion global market by 2025-26. When adding aerial, marine, and defense autonomous systems to capture the broader autonomous mobile systems market space context, the total likely climbs above $1 trillion in total market size during the mid- to late-period of the present decade. If a region with a robust and well-supported technology ecosystem were to capture even 1% of the $1 trillion global autonomous mobile systems market, it would equate to a $10 billion growth opportunity developing within the next decade.

The implications for potential economic growth around a rapidly scaling multi-billion dollar autonomous mobile systems industry, in conjunction with the readily apparent base of expertise and assets relevant to these technologies in Pittsburgh, have been recognized by key regional stakeholders. While those engaged in advanced economic development for the Pittsburgh region have observed the organic growth of the autonomy sector to date, the opportunity presenting itself to the region and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania today is of such a scale and importance that a detailed examination of the opportunity is required that includes an evaluation of existing industry activity, current regional innovation assets that can be leveraged towards this opportunity, any gaps in the ecosystem that need to be addressed, and a resulting strategy and action plan developed to guide realization of the full economic opportunity as it unfolds.