Uber AI: What Does Uber Want to Do With Artificial Intelligence?

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Can Uber Beat the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Giants?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one area that has been attracting lot of attention from the top technology companies for a while now. Uber Technologies Inc. has become the latest company to be bitten by the AI bug.

Uber’s Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden posted on Monday that the company has opened “Uber AI Labs,” a new division dedicated to cutting-edge research in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

And he had something more exciting to announce: Uber has acquired the AI research startup Geometric Intelligence, whose 15 members will form the initial core of the AI Labs team. (Source: “Founding Uber AI Labs,” Uber Technologies Inc., December 5, 2016)

Holden explains that Uber is in the business of using technology to move people and things in the real world, which can be a high-order intelligence problem. The formation of Uber AI Labs, to be directed by Geometric Intelligence’s founding CEO Gary Marcus, represents Uber’s commitment to advancing state-of-the-art technology, driven by the company’s vision that moving people and things in the physical world can be much faster, safer, and accessible to all.  


With this acquisition, Uber is on its way to compete with four tech giants that have invested heavily in AI: Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG, GOOGL), Amazon.com, Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). It looks like Uber is transforming itself from a ride-hailing company to a company that is into self-driving cars and trucks, and even flying automobiles. Uber has been experimenting with its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, and has also acquired a self-driving company called Otto Motors.

How Far Will Uber AI Go?  

As the work of Geometric Intelligence progresses, the team is likely to work in tandem with Uber’s autonomous car group in Pittsburgh, as well as with groups working on traffic prediction in San Francisco and Palo Alto. According to the founders of Geometric Intelligence, their team will tackle everything from machine vision to natural language understanding. (Source: “Uber Buys A Mysterious Startup To Make Itself an AI Company,” Wired, December 5, 2016).

As the company gets ready to take on this new challenge, the future looks promising. It would be interesting to see how Uber deals with other tech giants in the space who are also rooting for a more open AI environment. Google (Alphabet Inc) announced on Monday that it will offer access to the company’s “DeepMind” lab as an open source available for the AI research community.

Also, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk released a software platform called “Universe” that lets AI agents improve their computer skills. “OpenAI,” the billion-dollar project of Musk and Y Combinator’s President Sam Altman, was initiated with the objective of reducing the potential harms of artificial intelligence by democratizing it.

As artificial intelligence becomes the new competitive advantage for companies, it remains to be seen how Uber AI transforms the ride-hailing company.