Aurrigo is the latest international autonomous vehicle (AV) company to drive itself to Ontario.

The Coventry, U.K.-based technology innovator develops and manufactures the driverless PodZero. With an operating speed of up to 24km/h, multiple battery options up to eight hours or 80 kilometers, PodZero transports both people and cargo. It can be designed to be wheelchair accessible and incorporate features to help visually impaired passengers. And, to ensure the safety of everyone on the road, PodZeros are monitored through Aurrigo's control room.

Disclaimer: This video links to a third party source. This video is not hosted by the Government of Ontario and there may not be a French version or transcripts available.

PodZero taps into a growing market

"The PodZero is poised to change the way we transport people efficiently on the first and last mile of their journey between transport hubs and a wide range of destinations, such as city centres, university campuses, sports venues and airports," says David Keene, Aurrigo CEO.

Keene has been in the automotive industry for over 35 years. His company, RDM Group, designs and produces auto parts for OEMs and Tier 1s around the globe.

Five years ago, he decided it was time to enter the fast-moving autonomous vehicle space.

"We couldn't compete with the big car players, so we looked for a niche and moving people around key locations seemed to be the right fit for us."

While Aurrigo has received significant global interest in its technology – it has PodZero trials going on in the U.K., Australia and Texas— it does have competitors. Which means, for Keene, there's a lot riding on its success.

So, what brought him to Ontario?

"Ontario is a hotbed of autonomous vehicle development," says Keene. "There's a critical mass of high-tech companies, high-tech workers, universities, technical colleges and research centres. And the government not only understands how fast this technology is developing, it's prepared to move just as quickly to help companies succeed."

When it came down to choosing a specific location for the company's North American headquarters, Keene chose Ottawa, and he credits the Invest Ottawa team.

Ottawa, Ontario gives Aurrigo a soft landing

"They were very convincing and extremely helpful," he says. "They understood that we were looking for academic, industry and government partners to support testing, validation and further development of our novel technology and they made it happen."

In addition to providing Aurrigo with office space, Invest Ottawa took Keene around the Kanata North Technology Park, home to some 60 companies working in all areas of AV research, including connectivity, safety and security, sensors, software, and manufacturing engineering and design.

"Every company we spoke to was open to the idea of collaborating with us, and that was key to our decision, especially given the wide range of technical abilities."

Aurrigo CEO David Keene speaks into microphones as he stands in front of an Invest Ottawa poster
Aurrigo CEO David Keene gave a keynote address on Mobility for Everyone at the 3rd annual Ottawa Autonomous Vehicle Summit in April 2018.

Keene found the same level of talent and enthusiasm when he met with university researchers at Carleton. He quickly enlisted them to facilitate AV trials on campus – where PodZeros will be tested in very cold temperatures and conditions – and he has plans to find future employees among the students who will be assisting with the trials and other projects.

Down the road, Keene intends to partner with researchers at the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College – and eventually further afield in Toronto and Waterloo, also centres of AV excellence. He's also optimistic about accessing research and development help through the government's Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN), an $80 million fund that supports industry-led AV R&D.

As for incorporating the business and arranging to bring in a vice president of operations from the U.S. to spearhead the company's growth, Keene says it couldn't have been easier.

"I'm confident I've made the right decision by locating in Ontario," says Keene. "World-wide, it offers the most advanced AV technology capabilities and exceptional government support."

Keene's long range plan? "I hope to build the PodZero in Ontario."

Sector/subsector: 

May 3, 2018

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