Ottawa isn’t afraid to take trials out of the lab and on to a real-life test ground. Canada’s capital became the country’s first city to test on-street autonomous vehicles (AV) back in 2017, advancing testing on active public streets on a spin through Kanata North Technology Park. Imagine the look on the faces of people passing by when the driverless car came to a halt at a traffic light, allowing pedestrians to cross the street. The smart city is receiving the same reaction from industry leaders across the world as it showcases home-grown connected car and AV technologies, applications and services on the global market.
Calling Ottawa Canada’s smartest city isn’t hyperbole. Located in the province of Ontario, with an international airport offering daily direct connections to over 30 major North American and European cities, Ottawa is the most technology-intensive region in Canada. The city boasts more PhDs per capita than anywhere else in Canada and excels in the areas of next generation networks and 5G, smart city initiatives, communications technology, and autonomous vehicles.
Ottawa is home to the top five mobile backhaul equipment market vendors (think Nokia and Ericsson), the top 10 optical network hardware vendors and 90% of telecommunications research, resources that have helped the city’s connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) cluster become a leader in sensors and LIDARS, key components of CAVs. “Ottawa is a tech hub with decades of internationally-recognized strengths in fields that make up the core of CAV technology,” explains Sonya Shorey, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Invest Ottawa. “Ottawa’s CAV cluster, comprised of leading companies, post-secondary institutions, government and non-profits, established a vision early on, and committed to build the city’s capabilities, investment and global opportunity in CAV development, testing and validation.”
The AV testing on Ontario’s roads, led by the expertise of BlackBerry QNX (a leading developer of mission-critical software that serves as the foundation for connected and autonomous vehicles) and its Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre (AVIC), is one example of the development taking place in Canada’s AV capital—home to over 70 companies and other organizations working in the field. According toMichael Tremblay, President and CEO, Invest Ottawa and Bayview Yards: “Our region has the expertise and capabilities required to develop, commercialize, and adopt new vehicle to everything (V2X) solutions. These technologies can be integrated into global supply chains and sold around the world. This new testbed adds critical capability to our ecosystem, enabling innovators to test and commercialize these AV technologies.”
To build on its reputation as Canada’s AV capital, Ottawa and BlackBerry QNX have teamed up with organizations like Invest Ottawa (the city’s economic development agency) and the Kanata North Business Association, in addition to researchers at the University of Ottawa, Carleton University and Algonquin College. The Kanata North Business Association, for example, represents over 500 ICT companies that contribute $13billion to Canada’s GDP in what is Canada’s largest technology park
Portland-based Allied Market Research predicts the global market for autonomous vehicles will be worth $54.23 billion in 2019 and increase to $556.67 billion by 2026, with a compound annual growth rate of 39.47% during that period. “CAV is playing a key role in driving economic growth and in shifting the way in which we live and work around the world,” Shorey explains. Invest Ottawa has seen “keen interests from international firms in leveraging Ottawa’s CAV capabilities in V2X testing and our true four-season climate,” according to Shorey.
Picture: Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, during his tour of the BlackBerry QNX AVIC in Ottawa (copyright: BlackBerry QNX)