The Future of the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Sector in Ontario
- Ontario’s long history of leadership in the auto manufacturing sector has enabled it to become a leader in autonomous vehicle innovation as well.
- Ottawa has a great tech base, allowing for the development of technological solutions that support the growth of the autonomous vehicle sector.
- Investment in Ontario’s autonomous vehicle sector will benefit the rest of the supply chain that supports the sector, leading to province-wide growth.
Ottawa continues to see investment grow in its connected and autonomous vehicle sector, spurred on by strong governmental support and widespread innovation. Regional and provincial collaboration will be the key to help Ontario maintain its status as a leader in the sector.
What is the potential of the autonomous vehicle sector in Canada?
That is a very good question. The automotive sector is changing rapidly, which we are all aware of, and the introduction of new technologies into the sector is transforming the sector and other sectors. With this introduction of technology, global leaders are looking for new solutions and technologies, and they are willing to go outside of the traditional supply chain and talk directly to new entrants, startups, entrepreneurs, and post-secondary institutions to try and draw out that technology so they can remain the leader in this global race. With the expansion of the sector, there is a great opportunity for any jurisdiction that has an auto sector. If you look globally, any jurisdiction that has an auto sector is vying for leadership in this space, and this space is a convergence of multiple sectors. Automakers are starting to call themselves mobility companies. The way I define mobility is the technologies that will shape the movement of people and goods in the future. It is important to note that as the sector transforms, there are a lot of new technologies and solutions that are being looked at holistically as a system.
Going back to any jurisdiction that has an auto sector, this is a really big opportunity to build new companies, commercialize new technologies and solutions, and get them to the global market. If I take that to Ontario, Ontario has and always had the ingredients. Ontario has always been a leader in the auto sector. With everything that we have and our leadership, we will continue to lead because we have innovative entrepreneurs, high-potential startups, world-class post-secondary institutions, top-tier talent, and a very supportive government. All of these are the ingredients that will help Ontario continue to maintain its leadership and grow in the future of the auto sector.
What makes Ottawa a good location for investment in the autonomous vehicles sector?
AVIN is the Government of Ontario’s initiative to drive the future of our auto sector and capitalize on all of those ingredients that I mentioned to you. It is a part of driving prosperity and the Government of Ontario’s 10-year plan for the future of the auto sector. The key to maintaining Ontario’s leadership globally in the autonomous vehicle sector is to leverage our regional strengths. It is to go across our province and look regionally for areas of strength that we have and coordinate local and regional actors such as post-secondary institutions, incubators, accelerators, economic development corporations, and industry to come together and support the growth of new startups, technologies, and solutions to help them overcome the barriers to commercialization. We need to help them connect to potential customers and this will grow our province, startup community, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and get them to the global market, create jobs in our province, and create more economic opportunities.
The key to maintaining Ontario’s leadership globally in the autonomous vehicle sector is to leverage our regional strengths.
If you look at Ottawa, Ottawa has always had a technology cluster like other parts of our province. There are six regional sites across the province: Windsor-Essex, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, Durham, and Ottawa. In Ottawa, there was a base of technology and industry that is a part of a growing need in the space. That is what made Ottawa one of the choices for the Regional Technology Development Sites.
What sectors or emerging technology clusters support the growth of a competitive connected and autonomous vehicles sector in Ottawa?
Ontario has a lot to offer, and it is acknowledged globally. AVIN is acknowledged globally. If you look across the province, Ontario has a lot of strengths in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, machinery, sensors and other hardware, communications, and networking. We have strengths in other parts of the auto sector as well. That is a result of the fact that we have been a major automotive jurisdiction for a number of years, and we will continue to be as we see continuous reinvestment in our auto sector. We have a lot of areas of strength in our post-secondary institutions, startup communities, entrepreneurial communities, small and medium-sized enterprise communities, and the supporting ecosystem around it. There is so much more that Ontario has to offer. I would emphasize world-class post-secondary institutions, talent, and innovative entrepreneurs, startups, and small and medium-sized enterprises that are building leading-edge technologies, and the world has noticed. People are paying attention to the fact that Ontario’s strength in the future of this sector is very much there and is something they need to be aware of.
What is being done in Ontario to attract and retain talent in the connected and autonomous vehicles sector?
Through Ontario’s AVIN, there is a talent development program that is very much focused on ensuring that we support the transition of highly qualified individuals and top-tier talent from school to work. It is very focused on helping them get opportunities to develop those skills in a real-world environment, which also contributes to the growth of startups and small and medium-sized enterprises in our province. Oftentimes as a result of that, we see talent joining that company or a company nearby because that company has provided them the opportunity to build the skills they can use as a reference for their next job. That has been wildly successful in ensuring that we transition our talent from school to work. We must ensure that talent has jobs in Ontario that build our companies that are going to scale globally and grow in our province. That is a very big part of AVIN and it continues to be.
What are some policies or support mechanisms to incentivize foreign direct investment in the autonomous vehicle sector?
In the auto sector, just within a month, we saw close to $5 billion of investment in auto manufacturing, which is phenomenal. We saw an investment in new vehicle platforms. The government is doing something right because that is a very important win for Ontario, to see $5 billion of investment from global automakers doubling down and saying Ontario is the place to build vehicles with future technologies. The Ontario Government securing that investment in Ontario is very important because investment in the autonomous vehicle sector will trickle over to the supply chain, both to our existing, strong, innovative, and high-quality supply chains, but also to new entrants in the supply chain, especially as these companies build future vehicle platforms. There is great work being done and there are great policies, and they speak for themselves.
The government is doing something right because that is a very important win for Ontario, to see $5 billion of investment from global automakers doubling down and saying Ontario is the place to build vehicles with future technologies.
In Ottawa, Ford has a research and development (R&D) centre that employs hundreds of people and continues to grow. They are developing solutions around the connected and autonomous vehicles space. That is one great example and there are likely many more. In Toronto, General Motors is developing autonomous vehicle (AV) software and other aspects of autonomous vehicles. You have similar investments in Waterloo, and I can keep listing more. This is all to say that there is a global recognition that Ontario is the place where the automotive future is going to happen.
What are you most excited about with regards to the future of connected and autonomous vehicles?
We see new opportunities, investments, partnerships, and new developments. It is hard to tell you what I am excited for and to pin down one thing I am excited for in 2021. That is a testament to initiatives by the government to ensure that we continue to grow and all the hard work across the province of many stakeholders that are all working together, including in Ottawa, in a very focused manner. AVIN is driven to make sure that we are focused on collaboration regionally. Ottawa is very much focused on this as well, and we are also focused on collaboration provincially. We are working on it together to make sure that Ontario is a shining light globally.