Toronto as a tech hub keeps getting bigger. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced the ride-sharing company would be investing over $200 million in the next five years as it opens a new engineering office in 2019.
Microsoft and Intel also unveiled plans to expand in Toronto this week. Canada’s largest city has a growing reputation as a tech hot spot. There is a confluence of universities breeding talent in the Toronto–Waterloo corridor and big tech companies seek to tap it in the search to find qualified workers.
Uber’s headcount will grow to more than 500 in the next few years. Khosrowshahi attended an event at the MaRS Discovery District innovation hub on Sept. 13. It was his first visit to Toronto.
“At Uber, we recognize Canada’s commitment to innovation and the vibrancy of Toronto’s tech ecosystem,” he said in a statement. “We want to support the innovation coming out of this great, diverse region.”
Uber’s engineering office will focus on the back-end infrastructure that will support product offerings like Jump bike and e-scooter rentals. Also in the works is a way of sharing the cost of a trip for passengers traveling along similar routes called Express Pool.
Uber has also been testing self-driving vehicles in Toronto, but the cars have not been picking up passengers. The San Francisco-based firm opened its Advanced Technologies Group Research & Development Centre in Toronto in May 2017, which has focused on self-driving vehicles.
One black eye Uber is trying to put behind it is the death of a pedestrian caused by one of its self-driving cars in Arizona.
“Building best-in-class self-driving technology will take time, and safety is our priority every step of the way,” the company said in a Sept. 13 release. It is teaming up with Toyota to build self-driving cars.
Uber also has a food delivery business in Toronto called Uber Eats.
Khosrowshahi, an Iranian-American, was previously CEO of Expedia before taking over from embattled founder and CEO Travis Kalanick in August 2017. He has been dealing with scandals and bad press, but in a bid to improve the company’s reputation, he has made safety the first priority—for passengers and drivers.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Khosrowshahi said the company has to show a path to profitability, but is also looking at going public in late 2019.
With files from The Canadian Press