Stratford Assumes Leading Role In Auto Tech Sector

(WINDSOR, ON) – Windsor is again sitting on the outside as other communities, some with no links to the automotive industry, take leadership roles in the development of technology for autonomous vehicles.

Yesterday at Queen’s Park, Ontario’s Finance Minister Charles Sousa, introduced his much awaited 2017 budget. On the technology of self-driving cars, Sousa said the province will, “… continue to lead the way in the auto sector.”

He then introduced a plan to invest $80 million to create the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network. This network, Sousa explained, will include, “… a new Demonstration Zone in Stratford to test this new technology.”

This is the third time unlucky for Canada’s former automotive capital.

Stratford will join Ottawa, were Blackberry QNX is expected to start testing self-driving cars this summer, and Oshawa, where General Motors Canada will rely on its Canadian Regional Engineering Centre to test and build the company’s next generation of autonomous driving technology.

As part of the project, GM also established a laboratory presence at the University of Waterloo’s Communitech accelerator. The research done at the accelerator will be linked to its self-driving efforts in Oshawa.

So far, no projects of such major significance in autonomous driving are slated for Windsor despite the city’s plan in January to send a letter appealing to join Ford in its work in the technology. There has been no publicly announced response to the letter although, in March, Ford did announce it is setting up a new research and development centre in Ottawa to also develop autonomous driving technology.

Stratford has gone beyond letter writing. Its mayor has been working with the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association of Canada.

A posting on the Association’s website, dated October 18, 2015, explained that the parts group, “… hopes that it will be a Stratford city bus or public utility vehicle or a Lexus RX350 technology demonstration vehicle the APMA has put together with contributions from more than a dozen of its members.”

Reporter David Crane, writing in IT World Canada on April 26, talked of being in mayor Dan Mathieson’s office to find out how his, “… community of 32,000 people will play a key role in enabling Canada be part of the autonomous vehicle revolution, one of the most transformative digital projects underway in the world today.”

Although meeting a day before the budget came down, Crane was able to explain that the Festival City, working with the APMA, will become the, “… key test bed for the connected car and the ultimate goal of driverless vehicles in Canada and Mathieson is anxious to ensure that the city has all that companies will need to test and prove these new technologies. It is where Canadian companies and Canadian research can be tested out and where foreign partners can join up with Canadian companies.”

Crane added that, “… Stratford’s designation as Canada’s ‘anchor demonstration hub’ didn’t happen by accident. Rather, the Stratford story shows how a community can take charge of its future. Stratford, in the 1990s, decided to go digital and build a community with a digital mindset.”

The program included a city-wide Wi-Fi network, high-speed broadband fibre for industrial users, and the location of a University of Waterloo satellite campus specializing in digital media, which has become a host hub in the Centres of Excellence Canadian Digital Media Network.

An offshoot of its electrical distribution utility is studying Dedicated Short Range Communications technology. This technology is, Crane noted, “… essential for the development of advanced driver-assistance systems and their evolution to fully-autonomous vehicles.”

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Robert Tuomi
After initially succeeding as a broadcast journalist and achieving senior level assignments, Robert branched out into marketing communications. As a senior executive, primarily in the high-tech industry, Robert created award-winning and comprehensive, multi-faceted initiatives to enhance sales and expand market awareness for some of the largest companies in their fields. Email Robert Tuomi