Uber Canada resumes testing ‘manual mode’ self-driving cars in Toronto

The company plans to collect more data related to autonomous driving

Ride-hailing company Uber has announced it’s bringing back self-driving cars in manual mode and will be driving them to do more research and collect data on autonomous vehicles.

A December 20th, 2018 press release states that as of today at 9am, Uber Canada will begin manual driving with a Mission Specialist behind the wheel controlling the car on city roads and highways.

The release added that a second Mission Specialist will be sitting in the passenger seat and the cars will be driven near the company’s self-driving research and development hub in the MaRS building located in downtown Toronto.

The plan is for the cars to collect data and fuel novel AI technology, automated mapping, and mapless driving research, the release said.

By having the cars in manual-mode, Uber will be able to collect data “needed to understand different driving conditions that a self-driving vehicle might encounter when operating, and helps ensure the company’s self-driving systems can perform well under various conditions,” the release said. It added the information is especially important for building the right AI algorithms.

Uber also noted that self-driving cars require manual driving through areas where they are expected to travel to create detailed high-definition maps of roads. Over time the cars won’t be driven in manual mode, the release said.

“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,” Raquel Urtasun, Uber Advanced Technologies Group’s chief scientist and the Toronto office lead, said in the release. “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.”

The press release also said Uber plans to grow research and development efforts in Toronto and noted that the current t4eam is “expected to double” within the next year. The R&D hub is going to be relocating to Bathurst College Centre in 2019.

“The move signals Uber’s commitment to not only investing in R&D for self-driving, but also the local technology ecosystem for both self-driving development and the core business,” Uber said in the release.