For the first time, Uber is expanding its self-driving research unit into foreign markets, but its first nation of choice is not that far away.
The ride-hailing company plans to add a new office in Toronto, Canada for its Advanced Technologies Group, which is responsible for the majority of the company's autonomous vehicle research. University of Toronto professor Raquel Urtasun is set to lead the outpost.
Uber already has eight University of Toronto students on its payroll for the office, and Urtasun plans to hire dozens more.
“Toronto has been a leader in AI over the years, really for the past two decades, and there is finally a realization that there is incredible talent, and this talent was mostly being exported to the U.S.,” Urtasun told TechCrunch. In fact, the Canadian government just recently approved self-driving cars for testing on roads in the province of Ontario.
The news also comes at a time when Silicon Valley as a whole has been nervous over President Donald Trump's stance on immigration—particularly his promise to curb the H-1B visa program that some firms use to obtain foreign, and often cheaper, talent.
That promise could potentially boost Canada'a burgeoning tech scene. Canadian immigration lawyers have reportedly seen an influx in interest from non-citizen tech workers in the U.S. Meanwhile, a company named TrueNorth has been set up to help businesses move employees potentially affected by any H-1B visa changes over to Vancouver.
Uber has also used its fair share of H-1B's. A little over 500 of Uber's H-1B visa applications were certified in 2016, according to data from the Department of Labor. Based on TechCrunch figures, that's nearly 8% of Uber's employee base of 6,700. Granted, not all applications certified translate into an employee.