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U of T’s Raquel Urtasun raises $100 million for self-driving startup Waabi: reports

(Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The University of Toronto’s Raquel Urtasun, a leading global expert in machine learning and computer vision, has raised more than CAN$100 million (US$83.5 million) for her new self-driving technology startup Waabi, according to Canadian and U.S. media reports.

It’s one of the largest rounds of initial financing ever raised by a Canadian tech startup, according to Forbes magazine, with investors that include Silicon Valley-based Khosla Ventures and Uber, where Urtasun previously served as chief scientist of the company’s self-driving division, Uber ATG, in Toronto. Waabi’s backers also include U of T AI luminaries Geoffrey Hinton, University Professor Emeritus, and Associate Professor Sanja Fidler.

Waabi utilizes a “new generation of AI algorithms” that will make it possible to “generalize and learn from a small amount of data,” Urtasun, a professor in the department of computer science in the Faculty of Arts & Science and co-founder of the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, told Forbes. She said the company’s novel simulation system is “much less capital-intensive” and requires less on-road driving to develop and refine. The technology will first be applied to automation of long-haul trucks.

The Globe & Mail reports that Urtasun, who moved to Toronto from the U.S. in 2014 to join U of T, is keen to build Waabi as a Canadian company.

“I want to make Toronto and Canada a leader in self-driving technology,” Urtasun told the Globe.

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