Uber Pioneer Opens Own Self-Driving Company

By Ben Hamill - June 10 2021

Uber Pioneer Opens Own Self-Driving Company

Raquel Urtasun, one of Uber Canada’s self-driving vehicle pioneers, has left the tech giant and is now focusing on starting Waabi, her own self-driving company. Since the global health crisis turned the demand for travel upside down, Uber decided to take a backseat on its six-year-old self-driving car venture. Instead, the firm sold its technologies to Aurora, a start-up based in Silicon Valley. However, Urtasun was not yet ready to give up on the idea.

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Waabi’s Lofty Goal

Waabi has set itself quite a lofty goal: to bring the promise of self-driving vehicles closer to commercialisation than ever before. While she has already made a great deal of headway in her quest to develop the necessary technology, Urtasun is currently unable to offer specific timelines with regards to when Canadians can expect to see self-driving vehicles on their roads. Others in the field have predicted that it will take decades for such vehicles to become ubiquitous.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s co-founder, estimated in 2015 that self-driving vehicles would have become commonplace within the following two to three years. On the other hand, Lyft’s Chief Executive Officer once stated that by 2025, car ownership would all but end.

Artificial Intelligence Applied To Self-Driving

Urtasun’s greater plan is to be apply an artificial intelligence (AI) approach to self-driving vehicles. This makes for a bit of a departure from the current norms, which sees cars built around complex software that requires time-consuming manual tuning.

While her approach to self-driving cars may go against the industry grain, Urtasun has argued that without AI, the possibility of increasing the abilities of self-driving cars will then become a lot more costly. She also sees technical and safety challenges becoming more prominent if AI is not employed.

Waabi is set to focus first on ironing out the logistics of the long-haul trucking industry, as its needs are currently the market’s most pressing. By the year 2023, it is anticipated that Canada will have a shortage of over 25,000 truck drivers. This equates to an increase of 25% when compared to 2019, according to a study by the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Conference Board of Canada.

The report found that the shortage of drivers has already resulted in the reduction of revenues in the truck transportation industry by roughly $3.1 billion. An aging workforce, as well as difficulties in attracting young people and women, have been cited for this shortage.

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