Germany seeks European cooperation on artificial intelligence

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier arrives for a news conference of German Chancellor Angela Merkel following the Hesse state election in Berlin, Germany, October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

NUREMBERG, Germany (Reuters) - Germany called on Tuesday for European cooperation on developing artificial intelligence (AI) to close the gap on leaders China and the United States.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier made the call after Berlin’s AI strategy was faulted by researchers, entrepreneurs and investors for lacking the vision and cash to sustain German industrial prowess.

Critics say that U.S. and Chinese tech companies are leading the way in deploying AI to automate office tasks, support autonomous driving, or talk to a digital voice assistant.

“We need a kind of Airbus for AI,” Altmaier told a digital summit, referring to the 1970 launch of the European planemaker that went on to make half of the world’s airliners.

Germany plans to invest more than 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) by 2025 to beef up its AI capabilities.

But the federal government would spend only 356 million euros on AI next year, according to a reply to a parliamentary question reported by Handelsblatt newspaper.

“Artificial intelligence can’t replace genuine political action,” said Konstantin von Notz of the opposition Green party.

Altmaier also urged the German auto industry to team up in creating a mobility platform that would gather vehicle data that could be used to train AI systems used in transportation.

“We are the classic motherland of mobility,” said Altmaier, calling on carmakers and railways operator Deutsche Bahn to join forces and “put some horsepower on the street”.

Reporting by Nadine Schimroszik and Andrea Shalal; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Alexander Smith