Uber has appointed a chief scientist to fill a new position at the San Francisco-based company.
Zoubin Ghahramani will oversee Uber’s AI Labs and lead its broader AI and machine learning strategy, according to a statement. “Zoubin joined Uber through the acquisition of Geometric Intelligence, and it has become clear that Zoubin is a natural for the chief scientist role,” said Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product officer.
Ghahramani joined Uber when a stealth startup he cofounded, Geometric Intelligence, was acquired by the ride-hailing company in December. At the time, the acquisition was seen largely as an “acqui-hire” to obtain top scientific talent. Indeed, as a result of the acquisition, Uber set up a new machine learning and AI research unit dubbed “Uber’s AI Labs,” comprising all 15 employees from Geometric Intelligence and headed by its founding CEO, Gary Marcus. Marcus stepped down from his role at Uber last week after just a few months in the role, though he noted that he would still serve as a special advisor to AI Labs.
That Marcus quit so soon after joining Uber raised further questions about the company’s work culture. Uber has been at the center of a number of controversies after a female engineer accused former colleagues of sexual harassment and just weeks later Uber’s SVP of engineering was asked to resign after failing to disclose that he had left Google in a dispute over a sexual harassment allegation.
Iranian-born Ghahramani is a highly regarded leader in machine learning and a professor of information engineering at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. Additionally, he is a key figure at the Carnegie Mellon University’s machine learning department, the Alan Turing Institute, and the U.K.’s national institute for Data Science.