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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ontario - $65 million investment in autonomous cars

As automotive technology is, without a doubt, the topic of the week, it’s only fitting that the province would be pushed to invest heavily in the auto sector.

According to confidential documents obtained by the Toronto Star, the provincial government of Ontario is being urged to invest approximately $65 million into a driverless test centre likely to be located in Stratford.

The private sector would reportedly provide matching contributions of approximately $130 million over the course of five years. The report was obtained from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, who named Google, Magna, Blackberry’s QNX, IBM Canada and General Motors as potentially participating in the program.

Outside of Silicon Valley, Ontario has the highest cluster of information technology companies . The report goes on to say that the province is also home to nine major automakers, nine universities and 24 automotive research programs.

The proposal states that nearly half of the invested $65 million would go towards developing new automotive products.

The regions of Oshawa, Waterloo, Hamilton, London/Windsor and Ottawa would also receive $5 million each to encourage the development of autonomous vehicle technologies.

Autonomous vehicles have been on the minds of lawmakers and private companies in just the last four to six years. This past week however, with the news that GM Canada would hire up to 1000 engineers in Ontario to facilitate the development of new automotive technologies, discussion around driverless cars has exploded onto the nationals stage.

Last year, GM Canada formally committed to developing driverless cars in the form of building a fleet of autonomous vehicles for testing for as early as 2017. While connected and electric cars were included in GM’s announcement today, the news threw a significant amount of weight behind the company’s prior projection.

Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premiere Kathleen Wynne were present at this morning’s GM Canada announcement, and both politicians took it upon themselves to make a speak to the press.

What’s ensued is an enthusiastic debate across the province, and it can be argued, the country, about what this means for Ontario and for Canada’s traditionally lacking automotive sector. However, what appears to be an intriguing factor of both of today’s driverless announcements is government involvement.

Today has been riddled with news and anticipation surrounding the future of autonomous vehicle technology in Canada, both of which were deeply integrated in the media and in the marketing surrounding them, with government involvement.

Up until now, the conversation about driverless cars has been happening in two places; among the private sector and in regional municipalities. The presence of provincial and federal representation in today’s announcements, let alone the Prime Minister himself, brings these conversations to a much higher station of legislative interest.

While the public won’t be able to go out and by a driverless car tomorrow, it’s clear that the conversation is finally being had across all levels of government and of industry, which is what needs to take place in order for any meaningful developments to be implemented.
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