Uber isn't about to be left behind in the race for artificial intelligence.
The ride-hailing service has been staffing up in AI over the past year, thanks in large part to its December 2016 acquisition of Geometric Intelligence, a start-up incubated at New York University. The idea is to help the company do everything smarter — rides, food delivery, self-driving cars — as it faces competition from the likes of Alphabet, Amazon and Lyft.
Rather than letting the start-up continue to function in New York, Uber brought the team to its San Francisco headquarters in March 2017. And while CEO Gary Marcus did leave just a few months after joining, Uber was quick to promote another cofounder, Zoubin Ghahramani, to be the new chief of the burgeoning lab.
The lab has roughly doubled since then, with nearly 30 people out of Uber's more than 16,000 employees, Ghahramani told CNBC in an interview. And he's structured the team to avoid some of the historical issues that other big tech companies have faced in operating research organizations.
"Having interacted with many companies over the years as an academic, I've seen companies where research was sort of like this side thing — there was always this frustration that it wasn't interacting with the core business," said Ghahramani, who has advised Microsoft Research and has received funding from Alphabet.