self-driving cars are storming the streets
When Uber hired U of T professor Raquel Urtasun, she didn’t move to their San Francisco offices—the company came to her. Urtasun, an AI expert, is head of the Toronto branch of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, a new lab dedicated to researching self-driving cars. Her goal is to master three essential challenges: object recognition (the vehicle’s ability to see other cars, pedestrians and so on), mapping (creating a hyper-detailed street grid for the cars’ brains to navigate) and localization (making sure the vehicle knows where it is). In August, the lab sent two of its high-tech whips—Volvo SUVs with 22 lenses and roof-mounted sensors—onto the streets to map the area around U of T. It’s a humble start, but it’s the first step toward a world where a machine, not a person, is driving you home from the bar at 1 a.m.