- Self-driving car startup Argo AI pledged $15 million over five years to fund a new facility called the Carnegie Mellon University Argo AI Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research.
- The center will support graduate students working to "push the envelope on the next generation of self-driving technology." The center is designed to take an "end-to-end" look at autonomous vehicles (AVs), including "perception, decision-making and actuation."
- The Ford-backed company had previously partnered with Carnegie Mellon (CMU) and Georgia Tech University to support three faculty members working on machine learning and computer vision.
Argo AI — founded by a team of CMU alumni, according to The Verge — will use the research center to advance "large scale, global deployment" of AVs, which it says can only happen through collaboration between academia and industry. The kind of holistic research that Argo promotes through the new center is the kind of basic research that universities have long done, while industry has the resources to back infrastructure and testing.
As Argo AI machine learning lead and CMU professor Deva Ramanan writes, "more faculty than ever are leaving the research arena for industry roles," and Argo thinks it is "crucial to support academia while fostering the next generation of leaders." Argo is also based in Pittsburgh, near the CMU campus.
Argo is backed by a $1 billion investment from Ford and has rapidly expanded its road testing. Earlier this month, Argo unveiled a third-generation AV with new sensor capability announced it will expand testing to Detroit. The company has already been testing in Pittsburgh; Palo Alto, CA; Miami; and Washington, DC, with an eye towards supporting a planned Ford self-driving taxi outfit in the next few years.
While real-world testing of AVs remains limited, Argo seeks to accelerate the computing research and development that will help the cars adapt to all conditions, with an eye toward "global deployment." It has already engaged researchers by giving them free access to curated data and maps from Argo cars through "Argoverse," an attempt to bring more minds to tackle machine learning questions.
The CMU investment now brings a new set of researchers to get AVs in shape to release to the public.