Uber moves further towards artificial intelligence

Elizabeth Barry 6 December 2016 NEWS

uber autonomous car

The ride-sharing platform's latest acquisition is its latest investment in machine learning.

Global ride-sharing platform Uber has made another move in the artificial intelligence (AI) space by acquiring Geometric Intelligence, with the startup serving as part of the newly form Uber AI Lab. While the lab will be based in San Fransisco, Uber is running another part of its AI experiments in Pittsburgh, with 40 researchers investigating self-driving cars. Uber also recently acquired self-driving car company Otto.

Uber's chief product office Jeff Holden says Uber wants to "very much" be a part of the AI scene.

“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,” he said.

The AI Lab will differ from its self-driving car lab in that the former will be focused on improving areas beyond autonomous vehicles, but those areas still remain unknown.

Uber is in the business of using technology to move people and things in the real world," said Holden in a blog post. "With all of its complexity and uncertainty, negotiating the real world is a high-order intelligence problem. It manifests in myriad ways, from determining an optimal route to computing when your car or UberEATS order will

"It manifests in myriad ways, from determining an optimal route to computing when your car or UberEATS order will arrive to matching riders for uberPOOL. It extends to teaching a self-driven machine to safely and autonomously navigate the world, whether a car on the roads or an aircraft through busy airspace or new types of robotic devices."

In its two-year run, Geometric Intelligence has been looking at how to build AI that can recognise objects or situations as well as machine and deep learning. The Verge notes this may indicate that Uber is interested in developing speech and image recognition software with less "data-hungry algorithms".

While the research could bring us closer to autonomous vehicles and perfecting AI, Holden concedes we are still in the "early innings" of machine intelligence.

"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."

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