Uber announced that it will acquire AI startup Geometric Intelligence to help create a new artificial intelligence research arm, called Uber’s AI Labs, The New York Times reports.
The acquisition is touted as a major step for Uber’s efforts to develop technology for self-driving cars for its ride-hailing service. However, the acquisition and new research arm could help Uber develop new tools and algorithms that can help it improve its existing ride-hailing and meal delivery services, as well.
Uber already uses machine learning algorithms to crunch the massive amounts of data it collects on its customers and their rides to help it optimize routes and provide more accurate information about pickup times and locations. Acquiring Geometric Intelligence and its teams appealed to Uber partially because the team has data scientists that specialize in other areas of artificial intelligence besides machine learning, like the Bayesian method for data modeling and analysis.
These alternative methods could offer faster ways to build models and algorithms than traditional machine learning, which requires feeding loads of data to computers over extended training periods before they learn how to crunch the data on their own. Researchers at MIT, NYU, and the University of Toronto have been working on similar methods for developing AI tools more quickly, the Times reports.
This could help Uber rapidly develop new models and algorithms for data analysis to help it improve its existing services. For example, Uber could use new models and algorithms to improve its mapping service, which it uses to determine routes for its ride-hailing service, its UberEATS meal delivery service, and its UberRUSH platform that delivers goods from other businesses. Uber just recently launched the mapping service and plans to invest $500 million in it after breaking away from Google Maps. Further improvements to its mapping capabilities could help Uber cut down on ride and delivery times, and improve revenue by enabling it to service more passengers or delivery orders more quickly.
Since the start of 2016, automakers, tech companies, and ride-hailing services have been racing to create a driverless taxi service. This service would mirror how an Uber works today, but there wouldn’t be a driver.
So far, the race has been brutal, as companies jockey for position by spending billions to acquire/invest in companies that will help make a driverless taxi service a reality. Uber recently took the pole position by announcing it would begin piloting its self-driving taxi service (with a driver still behind the wheel) in Pittsburgh later this month. But other companies, including almost every automaker, are quickly catching up as we reach the mid-way point in the driverless taxi race.
For the past two years, BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has been tracking the progress of the self-driving car space. As our reports have shown, the evolution is happening much faster than many expected, but there are still many barriers that have to be overcome before driverless cars become a reality.
BI Intelligence has compiled a detailed report on driverless taxis that analyzes the rapidly evolving driverless taxi model and examines the moves companies have made so far in creating a service. In particular, it distills the service into three main players: the automakers who produce the cars, the components suppliers who outfit them to become driverless, and the shared mobility services that provide the platform for consumers to order them.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:
- Fully autonomous taxis are already here, but to reach the point where companies can remove the driver will take a few years. Both Delphi and nuTonomy have been piloting fully autonomous taxi services in Singapore.
- Driverless taxi services would significantly benefit the companies creating them, but could have a massive ripple effect on the overall economy. They could cause lower traffic levels, less pollution, and safer roads. They could also put millions of people who rely on the taxi, as well as the automotive market, out of a job.
- We expect the first mass deployment of driverless taxis to happen by 2020. Some government officials have even more aggressive plans to deploy driverless taxis before that, but we believe they will be stymied by technology barriers, including mass infrastructure changes.
- But it will take 20-plus years for a driverless taxi service to make a significant dent in the way people travel. We believe the services will be launched in select pockets of the world, but will not reach a global level in the same time-frame that most technology proliferates.
In full the report:
- Analyzes the moves 18-plus companies have made in creating a driverless taxi service.
- Discusses the corporate and societal benefits of a driverless taxi service
- Examines the regulators conundrum when deciding if they should or should not allow driverless taxis to operate
- Determines the potential cost of a driverless taxi vs. owning a car, riding in a ride-hailing service, or riding in a taxi
- Explains the barriers including the technological and regulatory barriers these companies will face
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