An advanced technology development centre in Alberta says it has successfully conducted several autonomous vehicle tests over the last month as the western province signals its intent to battle Ontario for AV leadership.
The Alberta Centre for Advance MNT Products (ACAMP) has been testing a navigation system developed by NovAtel, an Alberta-based provider of high precision GPS technology.
“It’s not only happening in the East, it’s happening in the West, as well,” ACAMP’s Rosy Amlani said of autonomous vehicle research. “We do more than autonomous vehicles, but the focus right now is on autonomous. Everyone in the world is trying it.”
ACAMP and the Advanced Systems for Transportation Consortium are helping Alberta tech companies gain a foothold in the $102 billion autonomous systems market, which includes driverless vehicles and smart infrastructure.
ACAMP is a not-for-profit, industry-led product development centre. It doesn’t employ university professors or academics but is staffed instead by engineers from the around the world, Amlani said.
It works with about 30 Alberta tech companies and global automakers like BYD, which provided an electric E6 small car for the current autonomous research.
Siamak Akhlagh, ACAMP’s director of business development for autonomous systems, said the car didn’t arrive as an autonomous vehicle. Engineers had to work to turn it into a self-driving vehicle.
Tests conducted this month took place on private lots or roadways because neither Alberta or the cities of Edmonton and Calgary have AV regulations in place. ACAMP is currently working with the City of Calgary in developing regulations there.
Ontario already allows AV testing on public roads and tests have been conducted by BlackBerry in Ottawa.
The car is currently classified as a Level 2 autonomous vehicle but closing in on Level 3 status. In a Level 2 vehicle, the driver does not have hands on the steering wheel or a foot on the pedals, but must still be ready to take control of the vehicle. In a Level 3 vehicle, the driver is present but not required to monitor the situation as closely as in a Level 2 vehicle.
Siamak said engineers are mostly studying GPS, location and positioning information in AVs at the moment.
“We are not sending any commands from the lidar, yet. That’s the next phase,” he said.
NovAtel CEO Michael Ritter said working with ACAMP and automakers like BYD allows his company to attract investment and increase sales globally.
Alberta has long been a leader in developing oil and gas technologies, but ACAMP is setting its sights on “next-generation transportation and infrastructure solutions,” CEO Ken Brizel said.
BYD said it sees the potential Alberta companies bring to the table.
“The Alberta technologies being tested line up with our future needs for autonomous systems in electric vehicles,” says Ted Dowling, vice-president of BYD Canada.