Homeautonomous vehiclesUber purchases AI startup, creates machine learning lab

Uber purchases AI startup, creates machine learning lab

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Uber is rapidly acquiring startups as it gears up for a future filled with autonomous ride-hailing vehicles. Yesterday, the company announced the purchase of an artificial intelligence startup Geometric Intelligence to provide the core for a new central AI lab being established in Uber’s San Francisco headquarters. Uber AI Labs will dedicate itself to researching AI and machine learning, and look for a solution of using object or scenario recognition with smaller sets of data.

The ride-hailing company has been making headlines lately with its intentions of bringing fully autonomous vehicles into the present. Uber currently runs the advanced technologies center, a self-driving car lab in Pittsburgh, and recently acquired self-driving truck company Otto.

“In spite of notable wins with machine learning in recent years, we are still very much in the early innings of machine intelligence,” said Jeff Holden, chief product officer at Uber, in a blog post. “The formation of Uber AI Labs, to be directed by Geometric’s Founding CEO Gary Marcus, represents Uber’s commitment to advancing the state of the art, driven by our vision that moving people and things in the physical world can be radically faster, safer and accessible to all.”

Geometric Intelligence, a relatively unknown company created two years ago, was founded by academics with funding coming from New York University cognitive scientist Gary Marcus, Cambridge machine learning professor Zoubin Ghahramani, University of Central Florida computer science professor Kenneth Stanley and NYU PhD in neurolinguistics Douglas Bemis. The company is made up of 15 academics from around the world who study in the fields of data science and artificial intelligence.

“If you look into the future, there are going to be step-function changes in artificial intelligence that will affect business models and business opportunities,” Holden said. “We very much want to be a part of that.”

Uber is just one of the many massive companies vying for a spot in autonomous vehicles. Google acquired DNNresearch, a deep learning company in 2013, and Deepmind in 2014. Both Facebook and Apple have been hard at work acquiring machine learning and AI companies, and Samsung, GE and Salesforce.com have all made their autonomous intentions known.

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