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Uber, Carnegie Mellon to Build Research Lab for Self-Driving Vehicles

February 4, 2015

It is becoming clear that Google and Uber seek to move into each other’s territories. Yesterday, this website reported about Google’s plans to start its own ride-sharing service, making it a potential rival of Uber. Now, it has been confirmed that Uber will be competing with Google in the field of autonomous vehicle development. The app-based vehicle-on-demand company announced in a blog post that it will soon work on self-driving cars through its own research facility.

In the blog post, Uber announced that it has teamed up with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to build its own robotic research laboratory. The facility, which will be named Uber Advanced Technologies Center, will be situated close to the university’s campus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. According to Uber, the laboratory will be used for the research and development of technologies that will allow the company to guarantee safe and reliable transportation for its customers. Technologies will include those needed for the improvement of mapping and vehicle safety, and more importantly, those that make vehicles drive themselves without the help of humans.

The construction of the research site proves how serious Uber is in developing a fleet of self-driving cars. The laboratory gives Uber and CMU technology specialists a place where they can focus on developing autonomous vehicles away from Silicon Valley and even other automakers working on the same project. Uber is relying on a team of drivers for its operations right now, but it has long expressed a desire to provide on-demand service that does not require human involvement. Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick previously hinted that the company could use self-driving vehicles in the future, saying that drivers are the priciest aspect of the service.

Insiders with knowledge of the Uber-CMU partnership told TechCrunch that the transportation company is hiring over 50 senior scientists from the university as well as the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC). It seemed like Uber took the best tech professionals CMU has to offer, as a source claimed that the company “cleaned out” the university’s Robotics Institute.

While Uber has access to CMU’s finest in innovative technology development, it will be taking on most of the work. Sources revealed that the company will be in charge of core technology, the self-driving vehicle prototypes as well as the necessary infrastructure. Uber has begun hiring employees for its new lab and has started efforts to provide them with the software and equipment needed.

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