Carnegie Mellon University
June 24, 2019

Carnegie Mellon, Argo AI Form Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research with $15M Multiyear Grant

Agreement affirms Pittsburgh’s status as the ‘Capital of Autonomy’ with CMU at the center of the growing industry

By Byron Spice

Byron Spice
  • Carnegie Mellon University, School of Computer Science
  • 412-268-9068
Alan Hall

Carnegie Mellon University and Argo AI today announced a five-year, $15 million sponsored research partnership under which the self-driving technology company will fund research into advanced perception and next-generation decision-making algorithms for autonomous vehicles.

Argo AI and Carnegie Mellon will establish the Carnegie Mellon University Argo AI Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research, which will pursue advanced research projects to help overcome hurdles to enabling self-driving vehicles to operate in a wide variety of real-world conditions, such as winter weather or construction zones.

"We are thrilled to deepen our partnership with Argo AI to shape the future of self-driving technologies," CMU President Farnam Jahanian said. "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."

"This investment allows our researchers to continue to lead at the nexus of technology and society, and to solve society's most pressing problems." —  Farnam Jahanian

Carnegie Mellon has been developing autonomous driving technology for more than 30 years. The university's expertise and its graduates have attracted a number of self-driving car companies to establish operations in Pittsburgh. Argo AI was founded in 2016 by a team of CMU alumni and experts from across the industry.

"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," said Bryan Salesky, CEO and co-founder of Argo AI. "CMU and now Argo AI are two big reasons why Pittsburgh will remain the center of the universe for self-driving technology."

A photo of an Argo autonomous vehicle.
An Argo self-driving test vehicle drives onto The Mall. 

In addition to Argo, CMU performs related research supported by General Motors, Uber and other transportation companies.

"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," said J. Michael McQuade, CMU's vice president of research. "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."

“CMU and now Argo AI are two big reasons why Pittsburgh will remain the center of the universe for self-driving technology.” — Bryan Salesky

Deva Ramanan, an associate professor in the Robotics Institute who also serves as machine learning lead at Argo AI, will be the center's principal investigator. The center's research will be conducted at the Robotics Institute and involve faculty members and students from across CMU.

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 and, that otherwise would be difficult to obtain.

The research will address a number of technical topics, including smart sensor fusion, 3D scene understanding, urban scene simulation, map-based perception, imitation and reinforcement learning, behavioral prediction and robust validation of software. Research findings will be reported in open scientific literature for use by the entire field.

"This partnership between Carnegie Mellon and Argo AI, two of the major players in autonomous driving technology, is welcome news for all of Pittsburgh," said 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."

“I am delighted that CMU continues to collaborate with companies like Argo locally to great impact, embracing the newest technologies and continuing to add to the increased vibrancy of the region,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Their partnerships around AI, robotics, information technology, engineering and the arts is a real benefit to this community, and make Pittsburgh one of the leading regions in the country in innovation and technology.”

Martial Hebert, director of the CMU Robotics Institute, said that through the partnership, Argo is setting the standard for how to support university efforts in a time when the competition for technical talent is fierce.

"Argo is enabling the university to do what it does best by providing our students and faculty with access to data, infrastructure and real-world problems on a large scale," Hebert said. "In the process, we will train graduates who will be the top talent for Argo and the rest of the industry."