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U of T prof to head Uber’s driverless research hub in Toronto
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U of T prof to head Uber’s driverless research hub in Toronto 

Raquel Urtasun, is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto and a Canada Research Chair in Machine Learning and Computer Vision. 

Urtasun is described in the U of T Web site as “a world leading expert in machine perception for self-driving cars.”

Prior to teaching at the U of T, she was an Assistant Professor at the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago (TTIC), an academic computer science institute affiliated with the University of Chicago.

She received her Bachelors degree from Universidad Publica de Navarra in 2000, her Ph.D. degree from the Computer Science department at Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (EPFL) in 2006 and did her postdoc at MIT and UC Berkeley. Urtasun’s research interests include machine learning, computer vision, robotics and remote sensing. Her lab was selected as an NVIDIA NVAIL lab. 

In announcing Urtasun’s appointment, Travis Kalanick, co-founder of the San Francisco-based transportation network company Uber, also revealed plans to recruit other researchers from Ontario.

“Raquel will remain in Toronto to lead a new branch of our Advanced Technologies Group—our first outside the U.S,” Kalanick said. “By setting up shop at the MaRS Discovery District, we hope to draw from the region’s impressive talent pool as we grow helping the dozens of researchers we plan to hire stay connected to the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor.”

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Kalanick said Uber decided to locate its autonomous vehicle research team in Toronto largely because of the provincial and federal support for developing artificial technology.

“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. 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,” he said.

The work of Urtasun’s team will compliment the research being conducted at the Uber AI Labs which is leb by Zoubin Ghahramani, another machine learning expert and professor of information engineering at the University of Cambridge. Ghahramani, is also an alumnus of the U of T.

Uber is not the only company interested in building self-driving cars in Ontario.

In December last years, BlackBerry launched its QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre (AVIC) in the BlackBerry QNX facility in Ottawa. As part of this initiative, the technology company will be hiring local software engineers to work on ongoing and emerging engineering projects connected to driverless vehicles.

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