Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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Current Winner - 2017

E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship

E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship

Department of Computer Science

University of Toronto

We are on the verge of a new era in which robotics and artificial intelligence will play a very important—and very personal—role in our lives. Autonomous vehicles, robot helpers and opinionated computer programs are poised to make transportation, health care and even fashion choices effortless and efficient. But before we can safely introduce robots into our everyday lives, we need to teach them about our world: how to see, what we like, how to interact and when to help.

Raquel Urtasun is a pioneer in the area of machine perception. The University of Toronto researcher has developed algorithms that allow vehicles to perceive and understand the environment in three dimensions and in real time. Her work is enabling autonomous vehicles to navigate the streets safely and swiftly while detecting other vehicles and obstacles on the road and accounting for factors such as motion, speed and traffic flow. She developed the KITTI benchmark, a series of challenges for developers of autonomous vehicles that are used to test their creations and assess the performance of their systems. KITTI has helped to significantly push forward the field of self-driving cars and has been heavily used by more than 500 groups, both in academia and industry, including Daimler, NVIDIA, Samsung and Toyota.

A key goal of Urtasun’s work is doing more with less—using fewer cameras and sensors to capture greater amounts of information and detail about a dynamic environment. As a result, her research is advancing the state of the art for industry and helping to make personal robotics more accessible and affordable for everyone. Her latest research goal is to adapt her technology to make our cities smarter and better to live in.

Christian Landry
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