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Uber will start up its own AI research lab

The ride-hailing company bought an artificial intelligence company, and artificial intelligence research comes next.

Uber Mapping Car
Uber borrowed a significant chunk of its mapping architecture from Microsoft's Bing.

Uber's ride-hailing service is set to get smarter. The company announced on Monday that it bought New York-based AI start-up Geometric Intelligence and will soon launch its own AI research lab, creatively named Uber AI Labs. Geometric Intelligence's 15 specialists in machine learning will help drive Uber's research in self-driving cars (confirmed by Geometric Intelligence CEO Gary Marcus to the The Wall Street Journal).

Autonomous vehicles are a hot research area for the automotive industry right now, and Uber is keen to make its mark on the cutting-edge technology, along with carmakers like BMW and technology titans like Google.

While Uber's own fleet of self-driving cars tool around San Francisco (I've seen them), pick up passengers in Pittsburgh and go on the occasional beer run, it needs to do much more to not be left behind in the dust.


One of Uber's self-driving cars in Pittsburgh.

Screenshot via Gordon Gottsegen/CNET

In addition to machine learning, Uber can also use AI to help calculate the most efficient route, better match carpool riders and more accurately tell customers when their car will arrive, chief product officer Jeff Holden wrote in Uber's blog post announcement.

Uber isn't the only automotive company getting into artificial intelligence. Honda has its own AI research lab in Tokyo, and it plans on previewing some of its AI tech at CES next month. Toyota's AI research includes a cute little robot that reads emotions. While AI is manifesting in different ways in the auto world, manufacturers and service providers are clearly doing their part to keep up.

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