TORONTO — The chief technical officer of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association says the industrial world has to think of a vehicle as a digital platform instead of just a car.
Colin Dhillon says automobiles are going to become increasingly connected through mobile phones, which means different industrial sectors can no longer work in isolation as the relationship between consumer and vehicle changes.
“The auto sector was separate to the city infrastructure building sector, which was separate to aerospace, which was separate to ports,” he told Automotive News Canada this week, following a presentation in Toronto at the inaugural conference of the newly formed Autonomous Transportation Canada (ATC).
The ATC, which consists of business, advocacy and government representatives, is a nationally incorporated, not-for-profit association advancing the future of connected communities.
Dhillon said these multiple industries that have been comfortable “in their own silos and their own zones” have to change in a digital age and as coding makes up the “nervous system” of the vehicle.
“I always describe the vehicle as being no longer just a mechanical analog device, but rather a digital platform, someone wanting it to be transacting on electrons – electric vehicles, for example – but it’s transacting on silicon and chips, software and hardware,” he said.
He said technology in vehicles enables drivers to do such things as find available parking spots or avoid traffic jams.
“It’s the intelligence that we’re embedding in that the vehicle just so happens to be the centre of this nucleus,” he said. “It’s things going out from the vehicle and everything coming back to the vehicle.”
Safety, however, is the automotive sector’s primary concern, said Dhillon.
“Connected vehicle technology is about safety, don’t let anybody fool us,” he said. “Autonomous vehicle is about safety. All of these things are hopefully going to make our lives safer.”
He said 5G telecommunications will play a role in this evolution in terms of speed, performance and the reduction of lag. The APMA, in conjunction with a global team of other companies, conducted a 5G autonomous vehicle test last October in the southwestern Ontario city of Stratford in which communication from a tower sent signals to Toronto and then back to the vehicle, he said.
“I was in that vehicle and I didn’t notice any lag whatsoever,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing.”