Ottawa's autonomous vehicle course has a new name and a $7-million federal cash infusion as it expands its scope to include other emerging technologies.
Opened in 2019 as the L5 Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Test Facility, the 4,200-acre site in the capital's Greenbelt has been renamed Area X.0. Its operator, economic development agency Invest Ottawa, hopes the facility can be home to research into areas as diverse as "smart" agriculture and defence and security along with connected and autonomous cars.
Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly said the facility and its expanded mandate "will help to keep Ontario and Canada on the cutting-edge of mobility innovation."
The $7 million from FedDev Ontario accompanies $10 million in investments in the form of technical gear and expertise from the City of Ottawa and companies including Microsoft, BlackBerry QNX, Nokia and Ericsson Canada.
Since 2018, investment in the property that once was an Agriculture Canada research station has reached $29 million, Invest Ottawa said.
When the facility opened, the agency said its 16-kilometre network of closed roads and the capital's variable weather made it ideal for the safe testing of autonomous vehicles in summer and winter. It's had to compete, however, with a growing number of AV test facilities, including three major sites in southern Michigan.
General Motors, meantime, is building its own test course adjoining a former assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont. The McLaughlin Advanced Technology Track is expected to be complete this year.