Argo AI Is Investing $15 Million To Set Up A Center For Autonomous Vehicle Research At Carnegie Mellon

By Dan Anderson ● July 2, 2019
  • Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Argo AI recently announced a five-year $15 million sponsored research partnership

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Argo AI recently announced a five-year $15 million sponsored research partnership. Through the partnership, self-driving technology company Argo AI will fund research into advanced perception and next-generation decision-making algorithms for autonomous vehicles. And Argo AI and Carnegie Mellon will establish the Carnegie Mellon University Argo AI Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research.

“We are thrilled to deepen our partnership with Argo AI to shape the future of self-driving technologies,” said CMU President Farnam Jahanian. “This investment allows our researchers to continue to lead at the nexus of technology and society, and to solve society’s most pressing problems. Together, Argo AI and CMU will accelerate critical research in autonomous vehicles while building on the momentum of CMU’s culture of innovation.”

CMU also performs related research supported by General Motors, Uber, and several transportation companies. However, the deal with Uber ended after the company poached a number of professors and engineers from Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center.

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“Argo AI, Pittsburgh and the entire autonomous vehicle industry have benefited from Carnegie Mellon’s leadership. It’s an honor to support development of the next-generation of leaders and help unlock the full potential of autonomous vehicle technology,” added Argo AI CEO and co-founder Bryan Salesky. “CMU and now Argo AI are two big reasons why Pittsburgh will remain the center of the universe for self-driving technology.”

Salesky founded Argo AI with Peter Rander in 2016. Salesky previously worked at CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center and Google’s self-driving car project. And Rander received a masters and Ph.D. from CMU.

“Carnegie Mellon has always been at the leading edge of fundamental research on self-driving cars, and this new agreement with Argo AI will help us continue to expand the frontiers of these important technologies,” explained CMU’s vice president of research J. Michael McQuade. “With Argo’s support, our faculty and particularly our students will be better prepared to tackle the next wave of technical challenges facing autonomous vehicles.”

Deva Ramanan — an associate professor in the Robotics Institute who also served as machine learning lead at Argo AI — is going to be the center’s principal investigator. And the center’s research will be conducted at the Robotics Institute and involve faculty members and students from across CMU.

Byron Spice, the director of media relations at Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science, pointed out that the center will give students access to the fleet-scale data sets, vehicles, and large-scale infrastructure that are crucial for advancing self-driving technologies that would otherwise be difficult to obtain. And this research will address a number of technical topics like smart sensor fusion, 3D scene understanding, urban scene simulation, map-based perception, imitation and reinforcement learning, behavioral prediction, and robust validation of software. And Plus these research findings will be reported in open scientific literature for use by the entire field. 

Ford invested $1 billion into Argo AI a couple of years ago. And Argo AI revealed its third-generation test vehicle earlier this month — which is a modified Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Some of the vehicles will replace the second-generation fleets being tested in Miami, Pittsburgh, Palo Alto, and Washington, D.C. And others are going to be tested at Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan and downtown Detroit.

This version features radar and high-resolution cameras with wider dynamic ranges along with a computing system with more processing power than earlier versions. Plus it now has improved heating and cooling system that reduces noise.

“This partnership between Carnegie Mellon and Argo AI, two of the major players in autonomous driving technology, is welcome news for all of Pittsburgh,” noted Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto. “Self-driving cars represent a growing industry and we want to continue to develop and attract the technical talent that will drive it forward.”