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Ex-Google search honcho Amit Singhal joins Uber

Uber chief Travis Kalanick with new hire Amit Singhal

Former Google search chief Amit Singhal is returning to the technology frontline as senior vice president of engineering at Uber.

Singhal spent 15 years at Google and was its senior vice president for search before announcing his own retirement to focus on philanthropic work last February.

But now he has been lured back by Uber, which he dubbed a “a geek’s candy store”, and a role that he described as one of the “hardest – and therefore most fun – computer science and engineering challenges in the world today”.

Singhal will head up the Maps and Marketplace departments at Uber, reporting directly to chief executive Travis Kalanick. He will also advise Anthony Levandowski, who heads up the company’s self-driving car efforts.

“It’s hard enough to connect millions of drivers to millions of riders in real time while creating optimal routes for drivers,” Singhal wrote in a blog post. “Add to that the twist of predicting real-time traffic, pooling multiple riders and making the system economically attractive for everyone — and now you have one of the most challenging computer science problems I’ve encountered in my 30-year career.”

Hiring such an influential industry figure represents a coup for Uber and a boost for its own ambitions to challenge Google in the race to put autonomous cars on the road.

“I love Amit’s excitement for solving complex computer science problems and his passion for helping improve people’s lives through technology,” Mr. Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, said in a statement. “The team at Uber, myself included, will learn a lot from him.”

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