Uber’s CEO used his first visit to the company’s Canadian tech hub to announce a new engineering hub in Toronto. Dara Khosrowshahi revealed that Uber plans to invest in a $200 million expansion of its self-driving vehicle center in the city. The new engineering hub — the company’s eighth outside of the U.S. — is expected to open early next year.
“At Uber, we recognize Canada’s commitment to innovation and the vibrancy of Toronto’s tech ecosystem,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement given to the Toronto Star. “We want to support the innovation coming out of this great, diverse region.”
The new center also means that the company will hire 300 new employees, bringing its total headcount in Toronto to 500.
“We like what we see. Toronto has a terrific talent base,” said Khosrowshahi. “Canada, for us, is an important hub ... we think we can build a terrific engineering talent base here.”
In 2017, Uber launched a partnership with the town of Innisfil, Ontario, which is located north of Toronto. The rideshare platform offers flat-fare rides between select destinations in lieu of the city building its own public transit system. The deal benefits both the company and the town, with Innisfil estimating that it will save more than $8 million a year, when compared with running a traditional bus service.
However, Uber has also had its share of challenges in Canada. Not only has the company faced opposition to its service, and struggles with regulation in numerous big cities around the globe, including Vancouver, but it's also facing tougher competition in the region from its rival Lyft.
In addition, Uber has dealt with heavy criticism over its autonomous rides project after a woman was struck and killed by one of the company’s self-driving vehicles in Tempe, Arizona in March. As a result, Uber temporarily removed its vehicles from the streets of Tempe, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Toronto before deciding to shut down the Arizona hub altogether.