Raquel Urtasun: From Conception to Pioneering Self-Driving Car Tech

Raquel Urtasun

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Raquel Urtasun, a leading figure in self-driving car technology, is at the forefront of change. She is not just a participant but a driver of the self-driving revolution. As the Founder and CEO of Waabi, her mission is clear: to reshape self-driving technology. Her vision extends beyond innovation; it is about making self-driving cars safe, affordable, and accessible for everyone. Although Waabi is still in its early stages, it has already garnered over $100 million in funding. This financial support is a statement of trust and belief in Raquel’s approach. Her team consists of experienced engineers and scientists drawn from prominent companies and academic institutions, ensuring that the company is well-equipped for the journey ahead.

From Academics to AI Entrepreneurial Journey

Raquel’s academic voyage began at the Universidad Pública de Navarra in 2000, where she acquired her Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. Her thirst for knowledge led her to the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), where she attained a Master of Science degree in Computer Science in 2002. Building on this foundation, she delved deeper into the realm of knowledge, earning her PhD in Computer Science from EPFL in 2006. Her doctoral work revolved around the realms of machine learning and computer vision.

Following her PhD, Raquel’s research pursuits took her to prestigious institutions. She embarked on a postdoctoral role at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California, Berkeley.

In 2014, Raquel joined the faculty of the University of Toronto as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science. Her journey at the University of Toronto was marked by rapid progress. She rose to the rank of Associate Professor in 2016 and achieved the distinction of Full Professor in 2020.

In 2017, Raquel was entrusted with a pivotal role as Chief Scientist and Head of R&D at Uber Advanced Technologies Group (ATG). Here, she steered a team of engineers and scientists in the development of self-driving car technology. Her expertise and leadership at Uber ATG left an indelible mark.

In 2021, Raquel ventured into entrepreneurship, founding Waabi as a testament to her commitment to redefining self-driving technology.

Waabi’s Innovation in Self-Driving Solutions

Waabi, founded by Raquel in 2021, is on a mission to redefine self-driving car technology. Their approach is focused on creating a system that is not only cutting-edge but also safe, affordable, and accessible to everyone. This involves a unique blend of machine learning and computer vision, which is more efficient and robust compared to traditional methods.

At the heart of Waabi’s offerings lies the “Waabi Driver” – a software system capable of controlling autonomous trucks on any road, under any weather conditions. What sets this apart are two distinct strategies for ensuring AI alignment. The first is “mechanistic interpretability,” providing developers with insight into the AI system’s inner workings, akin to a brain scan. The second is “constitutional AI,” enabling developers to establish the values and objectives the AI system should adhere to by creating a constitution.

Although Waabi is still in its early stages, it has already secured an impressive $100 million in funding. Looking ahead, the company plans to begin public road testing of its self-driving cars in 2023. Watch this space for the next big step in self-driving technology.

Also Read: The 10 Revolutionary AI Leaders of 2023

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