UCLA Computer Scientist Leads NSF-Funded Effort to Build Open-Source Autonomous Driving Simulation

Project aims to democratize artificial intelligence research in the emerging field

Bolei Zhou

Courtesy of Bolei Zhou/UCLA
Illustration of driving simulation by a new UCLA-led open-source, artificial intelligence-powered simulation platform, MetaDriverse

Mar 27, 2023

UCLA Samueli Newsroom

Autonomous driving powered by artificial intelligence has great potential to transform daily life and the economy, offering an alternative mode of transportation and improved mobility. 

Bolei Zhou, an assistant professor of computer science at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering has received a three-year, $960,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to lead the development of a new open-source simulation platform, MetaDriverse, to democratize AI research of autonomous driving.

Driving simulators that evaluate new AI algorithms provide a cost-effective and safe alternative for their development. However, existing simulators have limited assets and features to meet the needs of the rapidly growing AI field.

MetaDriverse is built upon the existing open-source MetaDrive simulator developed in Zhou’s lab, with substantial extensions of new features and capabilities such as importing open assets from the real world and realistic visual rendering. This new platform will facilitate research opportunities in various disciplines, including computer vision, computer graphics, machine learning and human-machine interaction.

Zhou aims to grow MetaDriverse into a community research infrastructure and bring significant impacts for the autonomous driving industry. The platform will also provide interactive teaching toolkits for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs — especially for students from underserved communities and with limited computation resources.

This research project is part of an NSF-funded $1.86 million collaboration between Zhou’s lab at UCLA and the research groups of Trevor Darrell and Angjoo Kanazawa at UC Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. Zhou is the overall principal investigator of the joint effort. 

Zhou, whose lab has been pioneering interpretable AI for computer vision and machine autonomy, also holds a faculty appointment in the Computational Medicine Department — a joint department affiliated with both the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Samueli. 


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