The new home of Aurora, the self-driving car company. Photo by Tracy Certo.

Aurora, the gutsy self-driving car startup, will expand its Pittsburgh headquarters with a move to 1600 Smallman, the warehouse under renovation across from the Strip District Terminal.

The company announced Thursday that it has leased more than 100,000 square feet in the building to house its employees — including engineers, information technology, recruiting and technical operations crews — as well as a shop for its vehicle fleet.

Founded in 2017, Aurora has accomplished a number of firsts in autonomous vehicle development, such as driving on a test track and on snow-covered roads and navigating the city’s tunnels. It was the first self-driving car company to receive authorization from the state Department of Transportation to test its cars in Pennsylvania.

The company’s co-founder and CEO, Chris Urmson, the former chief technology officer for Google’s self-driving car team, has predicted there will be hundreds of self-driving cars on the nation’s highways within a few years, including taxis and cargo delivery fleets. Co-founder Sterling Anderson helped lead Tesla’s Model X project, while co-founder Drew Bagnell headed a Carnegie Mellon University research lab before working on autonomous vehicles at Uber.

PitchBook values Aurora at more than $2.5 billion. The company has more than 150 employees in Pittsburgh, and is advertising more than 50 job openings for positions including software and hardware engineers and vehicle operators.

Reception area with custom artwork inspired by the A of the Aurora logo. Rendering courtesy of AP+I Design.

Pittsburgh officials praised Aurora’s decision to locate in the Strip in the building that Chicago-based McCaffrey is renovating as part of its massive undertaking to remodel the Terminal.

“Aurora’s plans to grow with a new Pittsburgh headquarters reflect the reality that the country’s most innovative growth companies are committed to our region,” says Mark Thomas, president of Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to support Aurora’s continued local growth and expansion, especially now when new firms and bold ideas will be key to driving the regional economic recovery that will follow the pandemic.”

Audrey Russo, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, says Aurora is helping to pave the way for Pittsburgh’s autonomous future. “Not only is Aurora a leader in the tech and innovation space, but they also continue to raise the bar as civic leaders — mostly recently with their Beyond the Laptops effort,” she says. “Aurora has helped place Pittsburgh on the global map.”

Construction will continue through the end of the year on Aurora’s new space. In addition to Pittsburgh, the company has offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco, Calif., and Bozeman, Mont., but its employees currently are working remotely because of the pandemic.

Sandra Tolliver is a freelance writer, editor and public relations professional in Upper St. Clair.