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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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