Believe it or not, Canada has a dynamic automobile industry. Centered around the Great Lakes, it is one of the top 10 producers of light vehicles. It has OEM assemble companies dealing with 2 million vehicles annually. Its automobile industry does Ford, GM, FCA, Toyota, and Honda vehicles.
Tier one homegrown supply companies such as Linamar (TSX: LNR-T), Martinrea (TSX: MRE), and Magna (TSX: MG) along with 700 global companies send parts to the Canadian automotive industry. What Canada does well has become transformative automotive technologies and emerging technologies. Because of this, major investment in vehicle research has come their way. Firms such as Uber, Nvidia, Google as well as major automobile manufacturers seek Canada’s industry expertise.
Canada has developed significant expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) which as the automotive industry digitizes, become more and more useful. Commercializing AI means automated vehicles that drive itself. The Canadian Senate Committee under Transport and Communications held meetings last year on automated vehicles and from the information gleaned national and provincial strategies became developed to promote growth. The group included in its Federal budget $76.7 million to help make it happen.
More than manufacturing or AI
Automotive companies do not just build vehicles. They also create data management and information technology. Despite the closure of some plants, the automobile events showed other possibilities exist for the industry. Realizing they do not need to have an automobile plant to be in the industry, a switch to creating innovative technology for vehicles has begun.
Customization of vehicles has been a trend for some time, so the ability to create user enhancements or connect digital elements to the Cloud have proven useful and profitable. Automotive companies have had to retool and become like software companies due to the information demands of consumers.
Darwin AI, a startup using artificial intelligence as a basis in Waterloo, extended a university research program to commercialization with scholars. It now creates deep neural networks for industries and deep learning processes.
Its Generative Synthesis platform claims enhanced productivity. Like a good writer, it takes research from differing points of view and merges it into a coherent whole creating a set of models for human eyes to view. The platform creates these models quickly so decisions can become quicker for prototypes or production lines.
In the fall of 2018, it raised $3.9 million (US$3 million) for seed funding. Creating protocols that allow powerful Ai networks to work under limited resources of energy and computation in the industry could potentially mean millions of dollars. Models would help predict the most successful product lines.
An industry leader, LeddarTech creates scalable, versatile mobile and auto LiDAR platforms. Based in Quebec City, it strives to create systems using signal processing software to work with certified systems on chip (SoCs). It does so for passenger, commercial, robotaxis and autonomous shuttles. It recently delivered production samples of LeddarCore LCA2 system-on-chip (SoC) for functional safety requirements.
The company announced it partnered with Baidu’s Apollo autonomous open driving platform. Integration of the open source SDK (software development kit) will make advanced driver-assistance systems easier to develop.
Since the adventurous side of the Canadian automotive industry does not usually get in the public eye, some have hosted collaborative events to raise awareness. It sends students, industry experts, and other tech companies to automotive showcases to help startups have a chance of developing their ideas fully. The significant developments in IT have propelled the Canadian auto industry into innovative vehicle development. Canada offers some expertise that other country’s automotive industry does not have.
Tablet technology has infiltrated the industry for some time. Large 48-inch displays like a tablet showed up on dashboards in full color at the Las Vegas global technology conference. Even work trucks have received 12-inch vertical displays in the dashboard. Instrument clusters from driving controls to entertainment play across the screen. Working on being effective displays and not distracting is still ongoing but information at the fingertips while driving is already included.
Many new developments are occurring in the automotive industry overall. The features created not only have been driven by customer wants or new technologies, but culturally as well. USA and Canada both have rapidly aging populations, that will have urban areas needing driver assisted or technology-assisted vehicles by 2030. An article in Bioscience trends explains much of the policies created have to do with finding ways to prepare for a different set of parameters economically and socially. Classified as the next global health issue its astronomical cost using present systems have been deemed not cost effective.
The Canadian government summarized in a profile on seniors contained six initiatives created to keep the population mobile. The same issues will occur in the USA as well making an extremely large market for technology-enhanced vehicles and autonomous vehicles.
The ability of people in urban areas and the elderly to call up a vehicle that can drive itself will help society cope with this new reality. For others, it continues the information age and communication age megatrends that have become a necessary part of the business and daily life.
Whatever way it twists or turns, it will help innovative startup companies flourish. In turn, investors armed with information can invest in automotive technologies likely to become adopted by the public and government entities looking for solutions.