While Canadian automakers and technology companies are making significant inroads into autonomous vehicle (AV) research and development, the near-term opportunities for Canada’s automotive sector to take the lead on AV production are currently fewer than with the shift to EVs.
This is mainly due to Canada’s shift to AVs still being in nascent stages. A knowledge gap among consumers and regulatory hesitancy on the part of government are providing persistent barriers to full-scale AV adoption. Currently, Ontario is the only province to allow driverless vehicles on the roads as a result of the ten-year Automated Vehicle Pilot Program launched in 2016 and updated in 2019 to include the testing of driverless automated vehicles and cooperative truck platoons under certain conditions.iii And a recent study by J.D. Power revealed Canadians’ understanding of autonomous technology and overall consumer readiness for self-driving vehicles is quite low, with 67% of respondents
having inaccurate knowledge of AVs.
While there’s plenty of room for Canadians’ perception and acceptance of self-driving vehicles to grow, the country’s deepening pool of top AI and engineering talent offers a unique opportunity for the automotive sector to accelerate into the future of autonomous transportation.
“Canada has the opportunity to play a leading role in the development of the global AV market supported by our world-class, high-tech hub in Kitchener-Waterloo which has on of the highest concentrations of tech talent in North America,” says Stuart. “The hub benefits from an incredible computer science graduate output through the University of Waterloo, with more than 10,000 engineering students and about 4,000 computer science students, the top-rated Waterloo Artificial Intelligence Institute (Waterloo.ai) and Canada’s largest university-based automotive research group at the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR).”
Tech companies like Waabi, founded in Canada by AI pioneer Raquel Urtasun, and Waymo, and automakers including Tesla, Ford and General Motor’s Cruise Division, are investing exclusively in the mass production of AVs.
Whether Canadians and the federal government, which has the final say on how AVs will be deployed on the country’s roads, embrace a driverless future is dependent on how effective automakers and tech companies educate and mitigate the public’s concerns about issues like the safety of driverless vehicles and their impact on the driving labour force.
“While the automotive industry has weathered unprecedented challenges over the last few years, Canada has all the right ingredients to seize the emerging EV/AV opportunity, making the sector a global production powerhouse while ensuring our country leads the way on sustainable technology and manufacturing,” says Stuart. “The key to our success will be in ensuring we stay the course on leveraging our significant national resources – from the lithium reserves needed to make
batteries to our enormous human capital and talent need to research and commercialize emerging technologies.”