- Uber announced the formation of a new division called Uber AI Labs in a company news post. The ride-sharing brand recently acquired the artificial intelligence startup Geometric Intelligence as part of the effort.
- The new division will use AI to improve Uber’s existing service, including more accurately predicting ride time and estimating rider location; however, its main role will be to create software for self-driving cars, according to reporting by The Wall Street Journal.
- Geometric Intelligence’s 15 existing employees will be at the core of the AI Labs team. Gary Marcus, Geometric Intelligence’s chief executive and a professor of psychology at New York University, will take the helm of the effort.
AI technology, once seen as an oddity or far-fetched sci-fi concept, has increasingly shown itself to be one of the key tools that will help make businesses more efficient going forward by automating many tasks that could be deemed rote and repetitive. Uber is just the latest company making a serious push into better developing the technology in-house, joining a list of enterprise firms including Google, Microsoft and Salesforce.
However, Uber's approach is more hyper-specific in aiming for self-driving vehicles and might shake up its entire business model, which has previously relied on human drivers to run. An accelerated AI push means that driverless cars might be on the horizon soon, which will reduce operational costs for Uber, per the Journal, but might meet serious pushback from those who make their living through the company.
The question of robots "overtaking" human jobs has been an industry-spanning concern for some, especially as AI tools have shown they can not only automate data crunching, but also certain creative aspects of business and marketing as well. Major players in the tech space like Google, Facebook and IBM teamed up in September to introduce better standards and practices and ethical guidelines for machine technologies with the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society.