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Uber Technologies Inc. Uber Technologies will sell its self-driving-car division to Aurora Innovation Inc., a California company co-founded by Canadian-born robotics expert Chris Urmson.

The San Francisco-based ride-sharing company had invested billions into self-driving technologies in recent years, competing with giants such as Alphabet Inc. and Tesla Inc. Toronto was one of Uber’s key cities for research and development, testing its self-driving vehicles there and hiring dozens of employees, including chief scientist Raquel Urtasun, a renowned artificial-intelligence specialist hired away from the University of Toronto.

Reuters reported Monday that the deal valued the division, Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), at US$4-billion. Uber will also invest US$400-million in Aurora, giving it a total 26-per-cent stake in the company, which itself is valued at US$10-billion, Reuters said.

The deal will see Uber give up on one of its most future-focused divisions after the pandemic drove down demand for ride-sharing. It has faced both a long struggle to profit and extensive scrutiny over drivers’ pay – and developing autonomous-vehicle technology was considered by some close watchers of the company as an opportunity to deal with both issues.

In September, 2018, Uber chief executive officer Dara Khosrowshahi said the company would invest as much as $200-million in Toronto to boost its engineering presence in the city, including for research and development with ATG. In an e-mail on Monday, Uber spokesperson Sarah Abboud declined to say if the sale would affect the investment. She also told The Globe and Mail that the future of Uber’s Toronto ATG employees was not clear.

“Aurora has committed to making offers to the majority of ATG employees, although no decisions regarding individuals or teams, including the R&D lab in Toronto, are being communicated at this time,” Ms. Abboud wrote. “We are working through the details with Aurora and will notify our teams in the coming weeks.”

Aurora CEO Mr. Urmson was born in Richmond, B.C., and studied engineering at the University of Manitoba and Carnegie Mellon University – where he found himself on a team building self-driving cars for races sponsored by the U.S. military’s research division.

He was later hired by Google in 2009 as one of its earliest self-driving car employees, and eventually took over the division. After leaving the company, he co-founded Aurora with alumni from Tesla Inc. and Google, now a division of Alphabet, in late 2016.

With the sale announced Monday, Uber will not have exclusive rights as a ride-hailing company to Aurora’s technology, but the two companies will have a “preferred relationship,” Mr. Urmson told The Associated Press.

With files from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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