Raquel Urtasun, a prominent artificial intelligence researcher at the University of Toronto, has been hired by Uber as the ride-hailing company aims to build a lab for driverless car research in the Canadian city, a hotbed for AI talent.
Urtasun—an associate professor at the university who specializes in the computer vision software that allows driverless cars to view the world around them—will oversee the new venture. “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,” Travis Kalanick, Uber’s embattled CEO, wrote in a blog post published this morning.
The move resonates on multiple levels, given the ongoing legal attack against Uber’s existing computer vision technology by Waymo—the driverless car company that grew out of Google—and the widespread controversy over the Uber’s allegedly misogynistic internal culture.
Urtasun could help the company forge another much-needed path to the kind of AI that driverless cars will require. She’s also a high-profile female hire for a company desperate to change its image.
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