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Uber Investing $150 million in New Toronto Engineering Hub

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has announced that the company would be investing over $200 million CAD in Toronto over the next five years as the company is committed to building its tech presence in Canada, as they make efforts at rebranding themselves after recent setbacks.“Toronto is a place where we as a company innovate, and innovation is really what Uber is all about.”

The company plans to set up an engineering office in Toronto come 2019, the aim of this engineering office would be to focus on the backend infrastructure that powers Uber’s transportation services. Uber also intends to expand its existing Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) Research & Development Centre, launched in May 2017.

“This expansion comes at an exciting time for engineers at Uber,” said Thuan Pham, Uber’s Chief Technology Officer. “We have a number of big bets on our roadmap that create unique challenges and opportunities for engineers interested in helping to build the future of their cities. There is still a lot to be written in the history of Uber engineering and we’re excited for the local and international talent Toronto attracts to help us define the next chapter.”

Speaking with the editorial board at The Globe and Mail, Mr. Khosrowshahi said the company has refreshed its executive team and intensified its efforts on being a “force for good" as it overcomes past controversies.

“Our actions today … represent the ethos of the company, which is to do the right things," Mr. Khosrowshahi said. "I don’t know if there are other skeletons I’m not aware of – you never know until you know – but what I can control is: What does the company represent? How are we acting now? And I think we’re acting in an honourable way.”

It can be recalled that earlier this year, an Uber vehicle driving on autonomous mode, killed an Arizona pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg.

In response to this, Mr. Khosrowshahi said, “It’s something that we really learned a lesson on, the Arizona accident. It’s something that you have to design your systems around. When we get back on the road, it’s something we’re very aware of and something we’re going to design to make sure that [people] are safe despite that possibility of a human safety driver being distracted. We’re going to take very good care to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”  The company has earlier called back all its autonomous cars off the road following Ms. Herzberg’s death, including in Toronto, but plans to resume its on-road testing this year.

Khosrowshahi believes that in 10 years, human-free vehicles will be able to take to the road freely.

“The most efficient system is humans and machines working together,” he says“The future that I see is that if there's a very simple route, [with] no traffic jams … no unprotected left turns, maybe not in a city centre where people are double-parking - that route might be served by machine. But I think that anything more complex, for a long period of time … That kind of a drop-off or pickup is going to require people. The reason why we're very interested in developing self-driving technology within Uber because we're also going to use third-party self-driving technology is because I actually very much believe in the human-machine hybrid. It's a better product."