- Alphabet self-driving subsidiary Waymo announced Thursday that it had acquired Oxford University spinout Latent Logic.
- As well as buying up Latent Logic’s tech and talent, Waymo announced that it would establish its first European engineering hub.
- At the moment Waymo’s cars only operate in Phoenix, Arizona, but the firm has signalled it wants to break into Europe in time for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
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Google’s self-driving ambitions are spreading to Europe.
Waymo, the self-driving firm owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, on Thursday acquired British startup Latent Logic.
Today, Latent Logic becomes part of Waymo. Their uniquely talented team, based in Oxford, UK, uses imitation learning to simulate realistic models of human behavior on the road—key to developing safe self-driving vehicles.
— Waymo (@Waymo) December 12, 2019
“By joining Waymo, we are taking a big leap towards realising our ambition of safe, self-driving vehicles,” Latent Logic founder Shimon Whiteson told the Guardian.
“In just two years, we have made significant progress in using imitation learning to simulate real human behaviours on the road. I’m excited by what we can now achieve in combining this expertise with the talent, resources and progress Waymo have already made in self-driving technology,” he added.
Latent Logic spun out from the University of Oxford in 2017, and specialises in “imitation learning.”
Per Forbes, Latent Logic collects traffic data to give its algorithm examples of real-world driving behaviour. The idea is that this will make autonomous vehicles better at reacting to unpredictable situations.
A Waymo spokeswoman said the company is not disclosing the price of the acquisition.
Buying Latent Logic has also signals Waymo breaking ground in both the UK and Europe, and it announced the creation of Waymo’s “first engineering hub in Europe” alongside the acquisition. The company will set up shop in Oxford, where Latent Logic is based.
Waymo’s self-driving taxis first hit the roads in Phoenix, Arizona at the end of 2018.
The cars are yet to make it beyond Phoenix, let alone the US.
The company signed a deal with Renault in October to set up a self-driving route from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport to an area just outside the city, with a view to having it operational by the 2024 Paris Olympics.