Nvidia gobbles up mapping startup to help automakers install its self-driving platform

Plus: Biden sets up AI task force, and Waymo expands autonomous trucking operation with new partnership

In brief Nvidia has snapped up computer vision startup DeepMap to help build the company's self-driving platform.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"The acquisition is an endorsement of DeepMap's unique vision, technology and people," Ali Kani, Nvidia vice president and general manager of Automotive, said in a statement. "DeepMap is expected to extend our mapping products, help us scale worldwide map operations and expand our full self-driving expertise."

Self-driving cars typically rely on pre-mapped roads to learn how to navigate different routes, and drive through various weather conditions. Training machine learning models on more accurate maps should lead to better autonomous driving performance.

These maps need to be updated frequently so the cars can deal with sudden changes, like roadblocks or lane closures ahead of time. It's risky to rely on self-driving systems to react on the fly; human drivers often have to take the steering wheel.

Nvidia Drive helps automakers install self-driving capabilities by providing the AI software and the hardware needed to run the algorithms.

The US government's National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource Task Force

The Biden administration has set up an AI-focused group of experts led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation to advance R&D efforts.

Twelve members from academia, industry, and government will be tasked with coming up with a strategy on procuring datasets for researchers to study across different areas from health to transport.

"In order to investigate a lot of their really great ideas in AI, they need access to powerful computing infrastructure and they need access to data," Lynne Parker, assistant director of artificial intelligence at the OSTP, who is chairing the task force, told the Wall Street Journal.

The team will be looking for ways to source sensitive government data in a secure and anonymous manner for researchers to use, and plan to issue biannual reports next year.

Andrew Moore, director of Cloud AI and Industry Solutions at Google, has also joined the team.

Keep on truckin', Waymo!

Waymo has teamed up with transportation and logistics company J B Hunt to move goods in autonomous trucks across Texas.

Trucks of Class 8 size, capable of hauling nearly 15,000kg, will be kitted out with the company's Waymo Driver software. It'll drive the trucks along the I-45, a commonly used freight corridor in the US, to shuttle back and forth between Houston and Fort Worth.

"This will be one of the first opportunities for J B Hunt to receive data and feedback on customer freight moved with a Class 8 tractor operating at this level of autonomy," J B Hunt chief sustainability officer Craig Harper said in a statement.

"While we believe there will be a need for highly skilled, professional drivers for many years to come, it is important for J B Hunt as an industry leader to be involved early in the development of advanced autonomous technologies and driving systems to ensure that their implementation will improve efficiency while enhancing safety."

It's not the first time Waymo has collaborated with a trucking biz. Last year, it announced it was working with Daimler Trucks. These partnerships are a win-win. Waymo gets to flesh out its AI software while its customers provide the vehicles. ®

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