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The Race to the Self-Driving Car

Posted by Roger Ryall


The Internet of Things (IoT) has changed the way we live. It has connected us to everyone and everything in an effort to make life easier. We can automatically re-order household items from the comfort of our home. We can connect with people on the other side of the world in an instant. We can have someone pick us up and drive us to our destination using our phones. The opportunities are endless and profitable. Which is why companies are pouring money into developing the technology further. One major shift where we see it happening is in the automotive industry.

Business Insider predicts this shift will generate $8.1 Trillion globally through to 2020. A major investment within the Automakers IoT strategy is to develop the self-driving car, a movement that has been kick-started and championed by Tesla.

Why Now?

Elon Musk has put the auto industry on its heels with his Master Plan. Mid-2016, Tesla, announced Part Two of their plan to accelerate the push for a self-driving capability that is 10x safer than a human driver. With Tesla now surpassing GM as the most valuable automaker, the traditional big guys are investing heavily to catch up and win the race to the first fully self-driving car.

So, why is this movement happening now and why is it important? Technology has made our lives easier and safer in areas such as healthcare, consumer products, and retail. It was only a matter of time before technology was advanced, and cheap, enough to make significant changes in the auto industry. Computers have the ability to process hundreds, if not millions, of data points in seconds. The thought is that the computer-driven the car will make the roads safer by taking the human error out of the equation. With early stage self-driving tech already available in cars, there have been examples where an accident has been avoided due to the technology reacting much quicker than a human can.

Benefits of Self-Driving Cars

  • Reduce accidents due to human error
  • Reduce traffic and commute times
  • Allow the passengers of the cars to focus on other tasks while commuting
  • Ability to turn vehicle ownership into extra revenue

Not only are automakers racing to develop the first self-driving car, countries are putting in the resources to make it a reality as well.

Where is Canada in the race?

Canada has generally been slower to adopt technologies, relative to the G7 countries. The case is no different with self-driving technology. Relative to the investment by other governments, Canada has a long way to go to be competitive and catch up. The government will play a key part in the self-driving car movement. Laws and regulations will need to be passed to allow the self-driving cars to be driven on the roads. Investments will be required to develop new infrastructure within cities and roads to supplement the technology in the cars.

However, Canada is heading in the right direction and the automakers have taken notice. Toronto has become a hotbed for tech startups which is keeping and bringing elite talent and investments to the country. Ford recently announced it will be investing $500 million into Canadian research for the connected car, creating 300 jobs. General Motors announced it will hire up to 750 engineers in Canada to support the development of self-driving vehicle technology in Ontario. The government is also is doing its part to facilitate the movement. Transportation Minister, Steven Del Luca, has approved 3 organizations to start road testing self-driving technology

What’s next?

The question around self-driving cars is no longer “if” but “when”. Leading governments and organizations have qualified the benefits of self-driving technology and are making significant investments to make it a reality in the near future. It’s now a race to be the first and the best, not only with the automakers, but also with the countries. Canada has put its hat into the ring and is making significant investments to make it a reality.

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