With Ford-Argo AI tieup, R&D experts race in

Article By : Junko Yoshida

Ford’s investment of $1 billion voer 5 years to launch a self-driving car by 2021 has stirred other teams to rev up their own development accelerators.

« Previously: Ford eyes self-driving in Argo AI stake

With Ford’s announced investment of $1 billion during the next five years in Argo AI to develop a virtual driver system for the automaker's autonomous vehicle coming in 2021 and for potential license to other companies, Ford raises mainstream curiosity and expert’s interests as well.

So, where is the engineering talent car OEMs are seeking today?

Noting that practically every car OEM has set up a Silicon Valley office, Mike Demler, senior analyst of The Linley Group, told us, “I’m sure some have made strategic investments” in tech startups. Other work has been also done through University alliances, such as Stanford’s CARS program, he added. “Several carmakers are members of that program.”

The Centre for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS), launched in 2008, pursues knowledge essential to building vehicles of the future by bringing together researchers, students, industry, government and the community to “understand how people and machines work together.”

Besides Stanford, there are similar programs at Carnegie Mellon University, University of Michigan and others, Demler added.

Open source expertise

Phil Magney, founder and principal advisor for Vision Systems Intelligence (VSI), believes OEMs, besides unearthing researchers in ivory towers, might discover developers in the open-source community.

“When it comes to AI, it is possible that the open source community will get their share of the pie.” He cited the Udacity project. The market is becoming much more open as an industry organisation such as the Khronos Group has also formed a working group to look into deep learning. The Khronos Group is now creating a standard file format for exchanging deep learning data between training systems and inference engine, said Magney. “This applies to Convolutional Neural Networks and AI architecture used for visual processing.”

We asked industry analysts to talk about independent tech startups focused on the development of autonomous driving.

Some might be ripe for picking, others are not. In a recent interview with EE Times, Laszlo Kishonti, founder and CEO of AImotive (formerly AdasWorks), told us, “We enjoy being independent.” Aside from several different projects going on with companies, such as Ceva, Intel, Nvidia and Kyocera, Kishonti said, “We’re poised to make larger deals with other companies. We are currently overshooting our revenue target.”

Next: Startups with self-drive vision »

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