Uber Restarts Automated Cars on Toronto Roads and Expands R&D

Uber is bringing self-driving cars back to the roads of Canada’s largest city starting today.

Keep an eye open for Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) driving around the streets of Toronto, as the ride-sharing company has brought back its test cars, fully equipped with a specially-trained Uber driver sitting in the front seat. The cars will still be driving themselves, and the specialist is there in case anything goes wrong. A second specialist is in the passenger seat helping to collect data as well.

Uber’s self-driving Toronto hub is located in the MaRS Discovery District and all of the collected data will be funneled there, helping to automate mapping for the company as well as planning mapless driving routes. The self-driving tests will also aid Uber in understanding the different driving conditions an automated car may encounter, and considering Toronto will start getting hit by snowfall sooner rather than later, it’s a good time for Uber to test this out.

“Our automated mapping capabilities, once mature, have the potential to expedite the rate at which we build high definition maps, which is a time-intensive process,” said Raquel Urtasun, Uber ATG’s chief scientist and Toronto office lead. “We are pleased to resume manual driving of our autonomous vehicles in Toronto and excited about the potential that this data collection can have for our self-driving AI research efforts in Canada.”

This move to restart automated testing follows a massive $200 million investment into Uber’s Toronto presence. The company is planning to use that money to open a new engineering hub, and today’s announcement also includes details that Uber will relocate their R&D hub to Bathurst College Centre in 2019. That move will include doubling the size of the current ATG team in the city.

The restart of automated testing follows two very high-profile accidents that involved Uber’s automated cars—one in 2017 in Arizona that involved a car making a left-hand turn, and another in the same state in 2018 that left one person dead. In both of those instances, it was determined that Uber was “likely not at fault.”

Uber also tests automated cars in other cities such as Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Both of those cities also had their research halted following the most recent accident, but those are both being restated today as well. These announcements come on the heels of Uber releasing their own Safety Report as well as an internal safety review