Ride-sharing and autonomous car pioneer Uber is opening a self-driving car research centre in Toronto. The new facility will be the company's first hub outside of the US and will be run by University of Toronto professor Raquel Urtasun.
The new branch of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group will open in the MaRS startup hub in downtown Toronto. With the support of the provincial and federal governments, the plan is to help develop artificial intelligence for autonomous cars that can be used by the ride-sharing company.
Urtasun holds a Canada Research Chair in machine learning and computer vision. Her work involves using artificial intelligence to help machines see the world around them in a better way and improving their ability to navigate. In short, things that Uber needs to help make machines that can drive themselves (and you) around. Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick says that the new team "will further strengthen our self-driving engineering efforts in San Francisco and Pittsburgh."
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Why Toronto? Kalanick says that Toronto has "emerged as an important hub of artificial intelligence research" thanks to smart investments from government as well as local talent. Uber will take advantage of work done by The Vector Group, a Toronto research institution working to "propel Canada to the forefront of the global shift to artificial intelligence." It also helps that Ontario is one of the only provinces allowing autonomous car testing, as part of a 10-year pilot project.
Uber isn't the only group using the machine learning and tech resources available in Ontario. Last summer, General Motors announced that they were adding a new autonomous car tech facility in Markham, adding up to 1,000 jobs. Ford has added hundreds of automotive software and integration jobs as well.
While Uber has semi-autonomous cars in testing in San Francisco and Pittsburgh, at their other two research facilities, they haven't said when or if we could expect testing to start at the new site.