Google’s self-driving Sibling Car Company i.e. Waymo has now acquired the Oxford artificial intelligence company Latent Logic for an amount that hasn’t been disclosed yet.
Speaking of Latent Logic, it is a spinout company from Oxford University, which is known for “imitation learning”, those who don’t know that that is, well it teaches machines how to act by showing them examples of humans performing the same actions. The company was founded in 2017 by the academics Shimon Whiteson and João Messias.
As far as we know, the reason behind Waymo acquiring latent Logic is that it hopes that Latent’s expertise can be put to use in teaching AI drivers how to deal with complex behavior such as a car cutting off another at a roundabout, a pedestrian emerging from a parked car, or any other possible scenarios.
“The team’s expertise in reinforcement learning and imitation learning can help further accelerate Waymo’s progress in areas from simulation to behavior prediction and planning,” the company said in a statement.
The Alphabet subsidiary is also planning on using its new base in Oxford to build a second reservoir of AI talent outside its headquarters in California. When it comes down to AI research, there is no better place than the UK, not only that but the UK is a leader in autonomous vehicles. Which makes this a hub for all the researchers who we don’t think would like to leave this place no matter what.
Drago Anguelov, Waymo’s principal scientist and head of research, said: “We see an exciting opportunity in Europe, not only in continuing to build our partnerships with major automakers but also in benefitting from the world-class technology and engineering capabilities in Oxford and beyond.”
Whiteson, who will continue to work as a professor of computer science at Oxford, added: “By joining Waymo, we are taking a big leap towards realising our ambition of safe, self-driving vehicles. In just two years, we have made significant progress in using imitation learning to simulate real human behaviors on the road. I’m excited by what we can now achieve in combining this expertise with the talent, resources and progress Waymo have already made in self-driving technology.”
Waymo is claiming that the acquisition is all about research that’s it. However, Waymo has no plans whatsoever to launch its self-driving taxis in the UK. Those taxis are strictly to remain in Phoenix, Arizona where they recently started operating in a fully driverless manner, carrying passengers around the city without even a human touch to its driving and operation.
But that doesn’t mean the company is only going to remain the USA. Waymo does plan to operate in Europe in the near future. The company is known to be working with Renault to develop a self-driving taxi service for the 2024 Paris Olympics when it hopes to be able to shuttle travelers from Charles de Gaulle airport to La Défense.