Uber Acquires Artificial Intelligence Company to Develop Self-Driving Cars

The ride-hailing juggernaut Uber announced this week the creation of its new Artificial Intelligence (AI) Labs, a move that will ostensibly push the company closer and closer to its goal of autonomous vehicles powered by self-driving technology.

The new branch will largely be made up of staff from Uber’s recent acquisition of Geometric Intelligence, a machine-learning development company founded by Gary Marcus and Zoubin Ghahramani.

“Part of what drew Uber to Dr. Marcus’s team is that his start-up is tackling artificial intelligence in a different way,” writes the New York Times. “Rather than taking just one approach like deep learning, Geometric Intelligence combines data scientists who use varying techniques to study artificial intelligence, including the Bayesian and ‘evolutionary’ methods.”

In turn, Marcus understands perfectly well just how important AI will be to the future of Uber’s business prospects.

“Every major company realizes how essential A.I. is to what they’re doing,” he said. “Because of the scale of data people are operating on, even the smallest gains in efficiency can turn out enormous changes at these companies, especially in terms of profit.”

Uber already runs much of its business model off of algorithms for connecting passengers to drivers and for implementing newer services like UberEATS food delivery and UberPOOL ridesharing systems. In many ways, driverless technology is just one more algorithm to master.

In addition to being more cost-efficient for the company, since Uber won’t have to hire drivers anymore, many developers see self-driving cars as safer than human drivers. For example, autonomous vehicles won’t be subject to decreased eyesight visibility at night, when 40% of all fatal accidents happen despite there being 60% less traffic on the roads. Even so, the technology is still far from being perfected.

“It’s going to be a very long time before a self-¬≠driving car will be able to make all the kinds of trips that Uber does every single day,” said Jeff Holden, chief product officer for Uber. “But the answers to this are all going to come in the form of artificial intelligence.”

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