Uber to open engineering hub in Toronto and expand self driving centre
The engineering hub—Uber's eighth outside the U.S.—will be complete by early 2019 and will form the “building blocks” for stronger and faster global deployment, according to CEO Dara Khrosrowshahi
TORONTO – Uber Technologies Inc. is revving up its Canadian operations with a new engineering hub in Toronto and the expansion of its self-driving vehicle centre in the city.
On Thursday, during his first visit to the city as Uber’s chief executive officer, Dara Khrosrowshahi announced the hub and expansion and said they will help the San Francisco-based tech giant build and update its infrastructure so it can continue to scale and offer more features and products to riders, drivers and cities.
“We like what we see. Toronto has a terrific talent base,” he said, in an interview with The Canadian Press. “Canada, for us, is an important hub…we think we can build a terrific engineering talent base here.”
Khrosrowshahi and the company said the engineering hub—Uber’s eighth outside the U.S.—will be complete by early 2019 and will form the “building blocks” for stronger and faster global deployment of new offerings the company has been toying with, such as Jump bike and e-scooter rentals, public transit partnerships and Express Pool.
Express Pool, which allows Uber customers to share a ride and the cost of the trip with other users travelling similar routes, will be arriving in the country soon, said Khrosrowshahi.
Uber has yet to announce plans to roll out Jump bike and e-scooter rentals in Canada, but Khrosrowshahi said “these are all areas that we are focused on and hope we can bring to Canada as well.”
He also announced Uber will invest more than $200 million over the next five years on expanding its Advanced Technologies Group Research & Development Centre in Toronto, which has focused on self-driving vehicles since it opened in May 2017.
Uber’s self-driving vehicle efforts have been marred in controversy since March, when it paused testing of its autonomous cars in Toronto, San Francisco, Phoenix and Pittsburgh after a woman was struck and killed by one of the company’s self-driving vehicles in Tempe, Ariz.
Khosrowshahi called it a “horrible tragedy” and noted that the company decided to shut down the Arizona centre responsible for the fatal test in May.
Around the same time, Uber said it was “doubling down” on its Toronto efforts. Prior to the fatality, it had been testing self-driving vehicles in the city, but the cars were not picking up passengers.
“There’s a huge amount of work to be done,” Khrosrowshahi admitted.
He and Raquel Urtasun, a chief scientist leading Uber’s self-driving car efforts in Canada, said the company still doesn’t have a timeline for how soon autonomous Uber cars will be hitting the streets and be able to be hailed by consumers.
For now, they are focused on growing Toronto’s talent base so the company’s operations in the city can continue delivering “significant technical breakthroughs” and advancing the performance and capabilities of Uber’s autonomous fleet.
When the centre’s expansion and construction of the forthcoming engineering hub is complete, Uber said it will have over 500 employees in the city, up from about 200 it currently employs in Toronto.