Autonomous Car

Uber's autonomous research to bring 300 new jobs to Toronto

Uber is set to boost its workforce in Toronto from 200 to 500 as it doubles up on autonomous research efforts at a new Canadian hub. The company is pushing research in this area, despite a fatal crash involving one of its self-driving vehicles in Arizona just months ago.

The ride-hailing firm, based out of San Francisco, is bringing its Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) to Toronto, opening a new engineering lab that will be the first in the country. Uber is planning to invest $200 million on the new Toronto location over the next five years.

"When the plan is to have 500 people, it's not going to be a satellite office," Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CBC. "The work that we're doing in self-driving is fundamental to the future of our company, and frankly, we think transportation more broadly."

Uber is already facing increased competition, as other ride-hailing services like Lyft, start making their way to the forefront in large cities. And now the firm is trying not to get left behind as competition among self-driving car makers speeds on. The firm believe the Toronto research hub will play a key role in the development of their autonomous plans.

"The team here develops AI technology that improves both the performance of the system as well as creates new capabilities," said Raquel Urtasun, who is ATG's chief scientist.  ATG is working alongside Uber to help establish clearer vision properties for the self-driving cars. She continues that they've made "fantastic progress" sine she took on the role of founding head of the Toronto lab.

It is hoped that increasing sight technology in self-driving vehicles, fatal accidents such as the one that killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in Arizona last March, will be avoided.

"We hope that with the work here we will get systems that are actually better, and therefore the likelihood of something like that happening reduces," Urtasun said.

However, she also points out that autonomous vehicles taking to the road is still some way in the future: "it's going to take quite a few years to get to a point where we see self-driving cars everywhere."