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Car and Driver: Automakers Band Together to Fund Autonomous-Vehicle Research at U.C. Berkeley


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The auto industry is intensely competitive, but when faced with great technical challenges, automakers do sometimes work together. GM and Ford, for instance, have jointly developed a 10-speed automatic transmission, several firms are working together to develop hydrogen fuel-cell technology, and now a large group of companies is joining forces to research today’s most-intense technological push: Autonomous vehicles.


As reported by Automotive News, Ford, Toyota, and Volkswagen, together with suppliers Nvidia, Samsung, Qualcomm, and Panasonic, have all joined a program called DeepDrive to fund research at the University of California at Berkeley to apply artificial intelligence to development of autonomous cars.


The buy-in is $300,000 and, according to Berkeley professor Trevor Darrell who heads the initiative, “They’ve essentially pre-negotiated access to [the] software.” According to the report, that means they’re free to use the research results for commercial purposes without having to pay to license it.


Automakers and their suppliers are keen to participate in the autonomous-driving revolution, and not be left behind by Silicon Valley—particularly Google with its much-publicized fleet of autonomous test cars. General Motors recently purchased a startup company, Cruise Automation, that is working on an aftermarket application of autonomous driving technology, and Toyota has committed a fat wad of cash to fund research at Stanford and MIT. Suffice it to say that for today’s young college graduates, the field of artificial intelligence would seem to be a promising one indeed.


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