Today there is a convergence between automotive and IT technologies. Consumer driven demand for additional capabilities within the car has led to a shift in how the automotive sector approaches manufacturing. It's no longer just about the assembly of components, parts and steel, but the intelligence of the automobile. With this new outlook comes new opportunity—and some of the world's most innovative research in connected and autonomous vehicles is happening in Ontario, Canada.

This technological convergence is not without its challenges; approaching an automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is often unfamiliar territory for a small to medium-sized IT enterprise (SME). In Ontario, we have an environment that facilitates collaboration. Ontario's Auto Parts Manufacturers Association (APMA) is just one example of how such alliances are formed.

The APMA represents OEM producers of parts, equipment, tools, supplies and services for the worldwide automotive industry. Steve Rodgers, the past President of APMA, realized that creating the right partnerships would require a facilitator with an in-depth knowledge of the automotive industry.

Rodgers states, "We recognized that a lot of these companies trying to get into the automotive business were from industries like aerospace, or from small start-up companies, and they didn't have an understanding of what an OEM is looking for, or know how to reach out to them. The APMA felt the need to provide a platform to help these companies get to the OEMs and showcase their technologies."

This platform came in the form of an Ontario-made Lexus RX 350 generously donated by Toyota Canada.

Making the right connections—creating opportunity

In January 2014, the APMA brought together 13 firms representing various parts of the technology spectrum. Their respective technologies were integrated into the existing architecture of the vehicle, not as a patchwork of disparate systems, but as a unified and intelligent system—a truly connected car. This included everything from a new alcohol countermeasure system, to weather telematics, to next generation proximity and camera sensors.

The technology companies working on the project include: QNX, TE Canada, MIS Automotive, IMS, Pravala Networks, Alcohol Counter Measure Systems, Weather Telematics, Lixar IT, BRAKERS Early Warning Systems Inc., Leggett & Platt Automotive, Magna, XYZ Interactive and Rogers.


Rodgers states, "[It's] 13 different technologies together into one vehicle, a rolling incubation platform if you will, that we could take around to the OEMs."

The finished product debuted at the annual APMA conference in June 2014 and made headlines as far away as Japan, South Korea, China, India and Malaysia.

The development of this showcase car illustrates the incredible opportunity for innovative organizations from around the world to get their products directly in front of OEMs. It doesn't just end with this version of the platform; it will continue to evolve with the progress of technology. Whether you are an auto parts supplier or an IT solutions provider, there is plenty of opportunity in Ontario.

A project supported by engineering powerhouse, the University of Waterloo

The project is more than just bringing together a coalition of technology companies; it's about fostering a unique innovation ecosystem. A major advantage of the business environment in Ontario is access to world-class academic and research institutions. In the case of the connected car, a huge factor in the success of the project is the relationship with the University of Waterloo.

Ross McKenzie, Managing Director, WatCAR, University of Waterloo explains, "We have a unique capability here at the University of Waterloo because we have a strength in software development through our faculty of mathematics… combined with the largest faculty of engineering, literally right next door."

Dr. Sebastian Fishmeister, Associate Professor, University of Waterloo adds, "In our department we have nearly 90 faculty members that work in all different areas from nanotechnology up to electrical and computer engineering up to software engineering."

The collaborative environment in Ontario brings together world-leading academic institutions, funding support organizations, and private enterprise. Companies in Ontario never have to innovate in isolation; with generous R&D incentives and competitive business costs, you receive the support needed to leave your own unique mark on the technological landscape.

It can only happen in Ontario

"Ontario is a leader in connected car technology," Rodgers explains. "No other jurisdiction has a vehicle with this degree of integration working in conjunction with existing architecture. It says a lot about the technology that's available and it says a lot about the collaboration that is possible within the province of Ontario."

Rodgers went on to add, "The Connected Car is a made-in-Ontario solution that could really have only happened here."

As the only subnational jurisdiction in the world with the major five auto assemblers, in addition to having the second largest IT cluster in North America, Ontario is clearly the place to be if you want to be at the forefront of connected and autonomous vehicle design.

You can create in Ontario – build in Ontario – and sell to the world.

March 25, 2015

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