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By Elizabeth Howell

Representatives from some of the world’s largest auto manufacturers and technology companies descended on the Brookstreet Hotel in early September for a growing annual conference that’s helping to cement Kanata North’s global reputation as Canada’s autonomous vehicle capital.

Speakers from Ford, General Motors and Uber joined Kanata-based executives from firms such as Irdeto, Flex and BlackBerry QNX to explore the rapidly developing connected and autonomous vehicle sector and shine a spotlight on the growing ecosystem in Kanata North.

The region is home to an estimated 90 companies working on this next generation of vehicle technology, said Sonya Shorey, Invest Ottawa’s vice- president of strategy, marketing and communications, in an opening speech at the two-day Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) Conference.

“I’m incredibly excited to explore new partnerships with the companies today,” Shorey said.

Kanata companies are working in multiple fields of autonomous driving tech, including research, software, design, security, connectivity, sensors, I.T. solutions, wireless and mobile technologies, noted Veronica Farmer, Kanata North BIA’s director of operations.

Finished cars can even be tested locally. Two years after Canada’s first on-road test of a self-driving car down Legget Drive, Kanata North tech workers recently took several
autonomous pods for a spin around the Marshes Golf Club.

Several speakers also praised the arrival of the Ottawa L5 test facility, a new 16-kilometre track in the city’s south end meant to run autonomous cars year-
round – including Ottawa’s harsh winter climate. Tours of the facility were available
to delegates, and it was such a popular choice that people were waitlisted.

The first day of the conference included keynotes from two companies with an Ontario presence: Ford Motor Co. and General Motors. Ford, GM and Uber among global
heavyweights at growing AV summit Ford is rapidly scaling up its Kanata presence with 100 new local hires in the last year alone and plans to lease some 40,000 square feet in a new west-end office development.

Ottawa native Rahul Singh – Ford’s head of autonomous vehicle software development – outlined several trends for the local industry to consider, including opportunities for new disruptive technologies to eliminate current pain points, such as the time wasted bringing a vehicle to a garage for routine servicing.

Instead of requiring the vehicle’s owner to drive the car to a servicing center, future cars could do it themselves.

“Maybe do it at 3 a.m., when there’s not a lot of traffic,” he said. “Payments are
automated. Then it can come back home, park itself, charge itself in the wall, maybe
even give energy back to the grid.”

Other panels at the conference addressed matters such as government planning and regulations, the socio-economic impacts of CAVs, autonomous vehicle technology and business planning in the CAV era.

The annual conference was co-hosted by the Kanata North Business Association, Invest Ottawa and Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE). This year, it was expected to surpass its previous attendance mark of 350 attendees.

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