TORONTO — People should focus more on how artificial intelligence is changing the auto industry instead of trying to guess when fully autonomous vehicles will hit the road, says the chief technical officer of the Automotive Parts Manufacturer’s Association.
“Is it 20 years away? Is it 40 years away? Is it 50 years away,” Colin Dhillon said on Thursday at the Automotive News Canada Congress in Toronto. “Rather than throw out an answer, I would say [you need to] understand how quickly artificial intelligence is changing the game and that really is a key.
“Analog technology has been around forever. I was at school in the United Kingdom in the ‘70s and the ‘80s and some teacher said, ‘Robots are going to take your jobs.’
“Guess what, robots are never going to take our jobs, but the ones that we have today are becoming more intelligent…It’s a completely different game because of AI [and] we must understand that.”
He outlined the five-year $80 million Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN), launched by the province and involves Durham Region, Hamilton Region, Ottawa Region, Southwestern Ontario Region (London and Windsor), Toronto Region and Waterloo Region. Each of the regions brings expertise to the project towards testing autonomous vehicles. He said APMA’s responsibility at the demonstration zone in Stratford is to manage 20 vehicles — 10 of which are sedan/sport utility vehicles — and test AI technology. Another seven municipal buses and three utility trucks are also being tested.
“This really broadens the playing field for us,” he said. “There’s nothing else like this, there really isn’t. I’ve been to California, Singapore, India and China and nobody else has a program or a project like the AVIN program where you’re supporting your ecosystem and technology and auto techonology.
“We’re going to be able to do that with 20 vehicles, 10 pieces on average for each vehicle, so after the five-year program it is 200 pieces of technology on a set of 20 vehicles.
“There really isn’t anything else like it and others want to jump on our bandwagon,” he said.
He said the APMA is fortunate to work with the City of Stratford and is hoping to announce later this year the two have collaborated on the smartest traffic management system in the world.
“Because of technology you have to look at infrastructure and the vehicle as one entity,” he added. “If you want the autonomous or connected vehicle to accelerate they’ve got to make sure their communicating within those realms.”