Uber hires “world leading” AI researcher and opens new Canadian lab to accelerate its self driving plans

Posted: 9 May 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

Uber has announced the appointment of Google scholar and University of Toronto professor in machine learning and AI, Raquel Urtasun as the firm continues to develop its self-driving software.

Urtasun, who has been described by Uber as one of the world’s leading researchers in the fields of machine perception and artificial intelligence, will head up a new division in Toronto, where she will continue to work at the University part time. Eight of her students are amongst her team, its been reported.The new branch of Uber’s ‘Advanced Technologies Group, is the first to be housed outside the U.S.

Her primary focus will be on developing the software that allows self-driving cars to “see” and “recognise” objects so they can navigate the world smoothly and safely.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote on Twitter: “Raquel is one of the top ML & autonomy scientists in the world..we couldn’t be more excited to have her on the team!”

The new lab will be located at the MaRS Discovery District, in which Kalanick said he hopes to draw from the region’s “impressive talent pool” as the company continues to grow, as well as help the “dozens of researchers” its plans to hire stay connected to the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor.

Toronto a hub for AI 

“With support from the Ontario and federal governments, Toronto has emerged as an important hub of artificial intelligence research, which is critical to the future of transportation,” Kalanick explained. “That’s why we’re also making a significant multi-year financial commitment as a platinum sponsor of the Vector Institute, which Raquel helped to set up as a co-founder.

“Raquel and her team will further strengthen our self-driving engineering efforts in San Francisco and Pittsburgh. And their work will complement the research underway at Uber AI Labs, led by Zoubin Ghahramani—a proud University of Toronto alum himself.

He concluded: “Self-driving technology promises to make our roads safer, our environment healthier and our cities more livable. While there’s still a lot of work to be done, we believe that the combination of our global ridesharing network with the cutting-edge software and hardware being built by our teams will make this vision a reality—and we couldn’t be more excited about what’s next.”

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