Over the past few years, more women have taken up roles in science and technology. In Toronto, one of the women whose work has been in the spotlight is Raquel Urtasun, the founder and CEO of Waabi. Urtasun utilizes machine learning and computer science in shaping the future of the automobile industry.
10. Named Chatelaine’s 2018 Woman of the Year
Raquel Urtasun was among the 32 women named women of the year by Chatelaine. The women included in the list were experts in different fields that ranged from advocates for mental health to those involved in promoting inclusivity of women in different areas. Urtasun was recognized for her engagement in machine learning and AI-associated research.
9. Named Toronto’s Top Influencers
In 2018, Raquel Urtasun was named the top influencer by Adweek Magazine. The magazine named her one of 33 media, marketing, and tech stars who have contributed to creativity and technological advances in Toronto. The list of influencers included the singer and songwriter The Weeknd and the poet and novelist Margaret Atwood.
8. Worked as a Visiting Professor
She was a visiting professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in 2010. The facility focuses on machine learning and different uses of AI. She was visited the facility and worked there during the spring semester, where she served for a short period before returning to Toronto. She was invited at the facility because of her background in computer science, machine learning, and AI research.
7. She has a PhD in Computer Science
Raquel Urtasun graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2000 from Universidad Publica de Navarra. In 2006 she graduated with a PhD in computer science from the Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (EPFL). Her educational background in computer science and machine learning has contributed to her successful career. She encourages women to take up positions in male dominated fields. Her education background in computer science also led to her selection as Canada's research chair in computer vision and machine learning. Urtasun held the position of research chair in Canada’s department of computer science. She was the chair of machine learning and computer vision where she worked with a team of experts in computer science. Urtasun held the role for two years between 2015 and 2017 before she resigned and was hired by Uber.
6. Co-founder of the Vector Institute for AI
Urtasun is the co-founder of the Vector Institute, which aims at driving research excellence in AI, improving the lives of Canadians, and fostering economic growth through AI. The institute consists of leading researchers in AI and machine learning who are pushing the boundaries of AI technology in areas such as security and fairness, decision making, and healthcare. Her background in computer science and experience in machine learning research influenced her decision to become part of Vector Institute.
5. Worked as an Assistant Professor at TTIC
Urtasun worked as an assistant professor at the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago (TTIC). She worked at the Institute for four years and four months between 2009 and 2013. Her focus at the institute was teaching courses related to computer science. Working at TTIC prepared her for her future roles in educating students about machine learning and its application in the modern world.
4. She Worked at Uber as a Chief Scientist
According to her LinkedIn profile, Urtasun worked for Uber for three years and ten months. During the three years, she worked as the head of Uber ATG Toronto for a year between May 2017 and April 2018. She was promoted to the chief scientist position in the research and development sector at Uber ATG. She worked as the chief scientist and the head of ATG for two years between May 2018 and February 2021.
3. Full Professor in Computer Science
She is a full professor at the department of computer science at the University of Toronto. She has been working at the University of Toronto for the past seven years and became a full professor in July 2020. Before that, she was working as an associate professor for four years between July 2016 and Jun 2020. She had also worked as an assistant professor at the same university between January 2014 and July 2016.
2. Founder and CEO of Waabi
Urtasun is the founder and the CEO of the self-driving car company, Waabi. She launched Waabi to disrupt the existing autonomous driving setting that characterizes the automobile industry. Urtasun believes that her life’s mission is to solve autonomous driving by creating a solution that could benefit everybody. In a podcast interview, Urtasun stated that machine learning will ensure that self-driving cars improve over time. She compared the driving experience of a person and compared it with that of self-driving cars. While people improve their driving skills over time through practice, machine learning will ensure that self-driving cars will promote the collective improvement of fleets of self-driving cars based on shared experiences.
1. She Raised Over CAD 100 Million as her Initial Capital
She raised approximately $83.5 million as her initial capital to start the company. The funds raised as part of the series A round is one of the largest amount raised during the initial funding stage by a Canadian startup. She obtained the funds from a group of investors that included companies like Uber, which she has worked with in the past and venture firms. The large number of investors who supported her in raising her initial capital shows their belief in her abilities to make the self-driving car a reality.
Raquel Urtasun is a force to watch out for in the automobile industry. Her commitment to creating self-driving cars is based on the need to ensure that everybody will be able to benefit from the cars, especially individuals like the elderly or those with physical disabilities who might not be able to drive themselves. She has made significant contributions to the fields of machine learning and AI. The success of her company could transform the future of transportation and lead to reduced risks of road traffic accidents.
Written by Allen Lee
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