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Uber heads to Toronto to assemble AI team for self-driving cars

Running off to Canada is a popular thing to do when the going gets frustrating in the US, it would appear.

James Martin/CNET

Uber might be mired in legal issues in the US, but that doesn't mean its put the brakes on all its efforts.

The ride-hailing giant is expanding its efforts in autonomous-vehicle research with a new artificial intelligence team, Bloomberg reports. The team, which will be part of the Uber Advanced Technologies Group, will be based in Toronto. Raquel Urtasun, a machine-learning expert from the University of Toronto, will be in charge of the new group.

Some of Uber's self-driving cars are used as passenger vehicles, while others are devoted to other ATC projects, like mapping.


In addition to the new AI research team, Uber will also invest $5 million in the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a nonprofit organization that is affiliated with the University of Toronto.

Artificial intelligence is more than just a good idea for autonomous vehicles -- it's all but necessary. A self-driving car can't just exist as a gargantuan series of if-then-else commands. It needs to be able to perceive the world around it and react to events that may not always play out the same way.

The University of Toronto has a strong focus on AI research, so it's no surprise that Uber went yonder Canada way.

Uber's efforts in self-driving-car development might be moving forward in some ways, but it faces a big issue in the US justice system. The company is currently embroiled in a case with Google spinoff Waymo, and a judge may issue an injunction against Uber's program. That wouldn't stop the whole shebang, but it would prevent Uber's on-the-road pilot program from operating, which it currently is in Pennsylvania, Arizona and California.