Uber Forms AI Team In Toronto To Develop the Brain of Its Self-Driving Vehicles

Uber may be experiencing legal troubles with Waymo, the Google spin-off for autonomous cars, but the ride-hailing giant still wants a slice of that market.
Self-driving Ford Fusion prototype employed by Uber in Portland 1 photo
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube video by Uber
While the legal department prepares for the battle with Waymo over some employees who allegedly stole LiDAR technology, the company’s leaders have decided to open a development office in Toronto.

Instead of creating a solution to avoid the use of the controversial sensor that is already employed by Waymo, the ride-hailing company wants to set up an Artificial Intelligence division.

The unit will be part of the firm’s Advanced Technologies Group, which is also responsible for the first self-driving vehicles put on the road with the company’s name on their doors.

According to Automotive News, the new department already has a leader, in the form of Raquel Urtasun, who is an expert in the AI fields of machine learning and computer vision.

Professor Urtasun is part of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, and she used to be an Assistant Professor at the Toyota Technological Institute in Chicago before moving to Canada.

Raquel Urtasun and her team will try to develop an artificial "brain" for autonomous cars that will be able to understand everything that happens on the roads used by these vehicles.

The team’s goal is to get a driverless automobile to "read" the signals usually made by police officers, as well as what other drivers are trying to transmit while they are on the road.

The tech giant was already working on software that is supposed to accomplish those tasks, but Prof. Urtasun will take things to the next level, even if she will use a day of the week to work at the University and another for the Vector Institute.

The American ride-hailing giant has already invested $5 million over multiple years in the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Toronto University.

Uber’s new AI office will be located in the MaRS Discovery District, which is a municipal innovation center meant to attract investments in Canadian startups.
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About the author: Sebastian Toma
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Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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