Ford's Argo AI Invests $15 Million For Robocar Research Center At Carnegie Mellon

© 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle tech company, is investing $15 million to establish a Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research at Carnegie Mellon University to improve self-driving technology.

The grant is for five years. The Autonomous Vehicle Research center will focus on improving sensors’ perception and algorithms designed to improve safety and reliability in a range of conditions including winter weather, especially snow, and construction zones.

“We are thrilled to deepen our partnership with Argo AI to shape the future of self-driving technologies,” Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian said in a statement. “This investment allows our researchers to continue to lead at the nexus of technology and society, and solve society’s most pressing problems.”

CMU also has worked with General Motors, Uber and other transportation companies.

But the partnership with Uber, announced in 2015, stopped after the ride-hailing service hired away a substantial number of professors and engineers from Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center.

Argo AI was co-founded in 2016 by Bryan Salesky, currently its CEO, and Peter Rander. Salesky had previously worked at CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center and before that was part of Google’s self-driving car project. Rander earned his masters and Ph.D. from CMU and worked with Salesky at the National Robotics Engineering Center.

Two years ago Ford invested $1 billion in Argo. The startup is a key element in ongoing negotiations between Ford and Volkswagen over a broader collaboration in self-driving technology.

Earlier this month Argo AI unveiled its third-generation test vehicle, a modified Ford Fusion Hybrid. Some of the cars will replace second-generation fleets being tested in Miami, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and Palo Alto. Others will be tested between Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, and downtown Detroit where the automaker is developing a new autonomous vehicle center of its own on the site of a former railroad terminal.

The newest iteration features radar and cameras with higher resolutions and wider dynamic ranges, as well as a computing system with more processing power than Argo’s earlier cars. An improved heating and cooling system minimizes interior heat and noise.

The new autonomous Fusions also have redundant braking and steering in order to maintain control and detect faults in the car’s ability to stop or pull over.

“When trying to see an object that’s very far away, a lower-resolution camera may only be able to represent it as a pixel or two,” Rander told the web site VentureBeat.com. “But with a higher resolution you may be able to get a dozen pixels out of the same faraway object.”

Deva Ramanan, an associate professor at CMU’s Robotics Institute and head of Argo AI’s machine learning research, will lead the new center. Research will include CMU faculty and students, who will have access to data from test fleets and the infrastructures where they have operated.

Among the topics to be studied are smart sensor fusion, 3D scene understanding, urban scene simulations, map-based perception, behavioral prediction and software validation.

(Corrects Ford's investment amount in Argo in seventh paragraph of story posted on June 25, 2019.)

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© 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle tech company, is investing $15 million to establish a Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research at Carnegie Mellon University to improve self-driving technology.

The grant is for five years. The Autonomous Vehicle Research center will focus on improving sensors’ perception and algorithms designed to improve safety and reliability in a range of conditions including winter weather, especially snow, and construction zones.

“We are thrilled to deepen our partnership with Argo AI to shape the future of self-driving technologies,” Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian said in a statement. “This investment allows our researchers to continue to lead at the nexus of technology and society, and solve society’s most pressing problems.”

CMU also has worked with General Motors, Uber and other transportation companies.

But the partnership with Uber, announced in 2015, stopped after the ride-hailing service hired away a substantial number of professors and engineers from Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center.

Argo AI was co-founded in 2016 by Bryan Salesky, currently its CEO, and Peter Rander. Salesky had previously worked at CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center and before that was part of Google’s self-driving car project. Rander earned his masters and Ph.D. from CMU and worked with Salesky at the National Robotics Engineering Center.

Two years ago Ford invested $1 billion in Argo. The startup is a key element in ongoing negotiations between Ford and Volkswagen over a broader collaboration in self-driving technology.

Earlier this month Argo AI unveiled its third-generation test vehicle, a modified Ford Fusion Hybrid. Some of the cars will replace second-generation fleets being tested in Miami, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and Palo Alto. Others will be tested between Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, and downtown Detroit where the automaker is developing a new autonomous vehicle center of its own on the site of a former railroad terminal.

The newest iteration features radar and cameras with higher resolutions and wider dynamic ranges, as well as a computing system with more processing power than Argo’s earlier cars. An improved heating and cooling system minimizes interior heat and noise.

The new autonomous Fusions also have redundant braking and steering in order to maintain control and detect faults in the car’s ability to stop or pull over.

“When trying to see an object that’s very far away, a lower-resolution camera may only be able to represent it as a pixel or two,” Rander told the web site VentureBeat.com. “But with a higher resolution you may be able to get a dozen pixels out of the same faraway object.”

Deva Ramanan, an associate professor at CMU’s Robotics Institute and head of Argo AI’s machine learning research, will lead the new center. Research will include CMU faculty and students, who will have access to data from test fleets and the infrastructures where they have operated.

Among the topics to be studied are smart sensor fusion, 3D scene understanding, urban scene simulations, map-based perception, behavioral prediction and software validation.

(Corrects Ford's investment amount in Argo in seventh paragraph of story posted on June 25, 2019.)

I have worked through three recessions, chronicled the rise of Asia and European automakers in the U.S., the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler, and witnessed

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