For those who think the Canadian auto sector isn’t what it used to be — whatever that is in your mind — think again. It might not look like your father’s auto industry, but it’s just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago, only in different ways.
The Canadian auto sector took centre stage on several occasions at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week. And technology, not manufacturing, was the focus.
Canada’s ‘car czar’ Ray Tanguay, the automotive adviser to the Canadian and Ontario government was the show’s first speaker. Imagine that, a man who grew up on a Northern Ontario dairy farm kicking off a week’s worth of auto presentations in Detroit.
He was quick to point out Ontario is the second-largest IT region in North America, and said the provincial government has a goal of annually graduating 1,000 people with applied masters in artificial intelligence and increasing the number of STEM grads to 50,000 from 40,000. All in an effort to live up to the standard set by the University of Toronto professor Geoffrey Hinton, widely regarded as the godfather of artificial intelligence.
It quickly became clear this week that assembling cars in Canada is so yesterday. Autonomy, advanced radar and cybersecurity are the future of Canada’s automotive industry.
Tanguay said 170 companies in Ontario alone are developing artificial intelligence, a key to autonomous vehicles. He also said Google, Apple, Uber, Magna and others invested more than $1 billion in artificial intelligence research in Ontario in 2017.
I grew up in an auto town, even worked on the line for four years, and I’ll always have a soft spot for manufacturing — and believe me, vehicles will still need to be assembled. But there’s no denying the robots are coming and low-cost regions like Mexico are making it difficult for Ontario to remain competitive when it comes to automotive assembly.
So, the Canadian auto industry — much like the once-beleaguered BlackBerry — is reinventing itself right before our very eyes. And you need not look further than that former smartphone maker from Waterloo, Ont., to see that a successful transition to tech is possible.
BlackBerry cybersecurity products are already used by 40 OEMs and in 60 million vehicles on the road today. It has 60 per cent of the automotive cybersecurity market — it’s to automotive cybersecurity what the Dodge Caravan is to the minivan market.
BlackBerry posted a record-breaking software and services revenue of $190 million for its fiscal third quarter.
The auto industry has noticed the incredibly important role BlackBerry can play in the industry and the company made its first appearance at the Detroit auto show.
And, so, BlackBerry unveiled what it calls a transformational product named Jarvis on Jan. 15. Jarvis has the ability to scan all software components in a vehicle within minutes to predict and fix vulnerabilities. A trial run with Jaguar Land Rover in seven minutes finished a task that normally takes a human 30 days.
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains said BlackBerry has “re-established itself as not only a Canadian icon, but a global icon.”
'BETTING ON INNOVATION'