Thanks Katie LeClair for talking to our CEO for Invest Ottawa's blog post about "What’s Next in the World of Driverless Cars and Smart Cities?" The Full Post:There was a time, not too long ago, when flying cars was an incredible concept. The idea only existed in science fiction films like The Man with the Golden Gun, Blade Runner or Back to the Future. The same was true for voice-activated, self-driving vehicles. The luxury of “calling in” the Batmobile was reserved for the likes of Bruce Wayne. But today, travelling in superhero-style isn’t that far off.In Ottawa, the BlackBerry QNX’s driverless car has already hit the road, and the city saw the launch of the Ottawa L5, the first-of-its-kind connected and autonomous vehicle testing facilities. The technology has advanced at an impressive rate and connected and autonomous vehicles, aka CAVs, are poised to revolutionize not only transportation but the way humans live and work. What does this radical change look like in the near future? 70+ thought (and action-oriented) leaders will be in Ottawa for CAV Canada: the “must-attend event for any innovator, organization or community driving the safe development, commercialization and deployment of CAVs.” This conference promises to be a jam-packed two days. It is set to cover everything from the government relations and the socio-economic impact, to the global view and business planning for the CAV era. Most impressive is the line-up of speakers (seriously, see The Speakers for yourself). I connected to a few headliners to get their take on what’s next for the CAV industry, from now until 2021. They offered a taste of what’s to come at the 2019 conference.Here’s what they had to share:When asked what the world can expect in the coming 16 months, Carla Bailo, President and CEO at the Centre of Automotive Research replied,
“The race for connectivity and autonomy will continue at an exponential pace in terms of technical matters. The public policy, liability, and insurance unknowns will lag technology, but industry, academia, and the government will start working in tandem to address these issues.”
The need for collaboration amongst industry, academia, and the government was a sentiment echoed across interviewees.Tenille Houston, CEO of AutoGuardian by SmartCone, emphasized the role 5G will play, enabling the delivery of mission-critical data in real-time. She anticipates a rise of virtual to physical (V2P) and vehicle to everything (V2X) research and technology development, a direct result of collaboration opportunities among large- and small-scale corporations. She stated that these results would lead the way for small and medium-sized enterprises with innovative ideas to grow exponentially.When asked what she thought the public needs to know about CAVs, Tenille said, “As excited as people claim to be about the autonomous future, I believe the technology will be ready far before people’s full acceptance and comfort with AVs. We need to continue wider spread pilot projects that offer more connected user experiences, which educate them at the same time.”Jennifer Tisdale, Associate Principal, Embedded and Advanced Transportation Security with Grimm shared the same thought. She believes that one of the markets biggest obstacle is going to be getting consumers to trust in automated vehicles; to have faith in the fact that these cars are going to care for them and not do them harm. Jennifer said,
“People are born and raised driving their own cars. So, getting consumers to trust that the car is going to do what it promises to do is going to be challenge number one. And I think the solution for that is time and exposure.”
Although we do a really good job talking to each other as an industry, Jennifer pointed out that informative communication with the consumer market is lacking. She suspects significant resource investment will be made in real marketing pushes toward the advantages of connectivity.When asked what the public needs to know, Carla shared, “Connected and autonomous vehicles will be on the road when they are proven to be safe, including the data being generated.” She encouraged readers to “Stay relevant to what is happening and don’t be led astray by hype. Facts and data are very important. The transition from horses to cars was fraught with anxiety, but soon those concerns were erased.”Jennifer, as a safety and cybersecurity expert, did acknowledge the importance of gradually introducing new technologies to the market/public. She emphasized that it’s vital we do not rush to put products on the road just to be first-to-market. While we see the marketing advantage of connectivity, Jennifer hopes that we start seeing security as a market differentiator.Chief Product Officer and Co-founder of Airspace Experience Technologies, Dr. Anita Sengupta reiterated, “You always want to do everything possible to ensure that things are safe before you shift over to another model of operation.”Grimm employs hired hackers responsible for “breaking stuff.” Jennifer also wants to break the negative stigma around working with hackers. Instead, she believes organizations should embrace and showcase that relationship; this will help build customer trust on the backend of products. Ensuring security ensures functionality, quality and safety.However, she acknowledges that investing in cybersecurity will require significant funding.
“We need to get an understanding across the board that this is going to cost money on the front end. They [firms and government entities] need to allocate budget to be dedicated to this type of cybersecurity research.”
She says that the senior leadership – the decision-makers – in the automotive industry and the government entities that support it, must understand that “they need to spend money on security first to make money in the long run.”When asked what the public should prepare for concerning the future of transportation, Carla’s perspective was: “People really need to think deeply about their transit mode selections. Carefully consider the actual cost of ownership vs. cost of usership. The transition to a sharing economy is vital to reduce congestion and improve safety.”As we’re preparing for the 2019 conference held in Canada’s Capital City, we asked local leader, Tenille, what she saw as Ottawa’s role in CAV innovation. She answered, “Ottawa is pushing forward to make a name in this CAV space against a lot of competitors. I truly believe the collaborative mentality that exists here will continue to push Ottawa forward on this track to gain momentum. With the private test track at Ottawa L5 and the public one at the Kanata North, you see companies large and small working together to push the boundaries in this space.”In my opinion, the future of CAVs is fast, and Ottawa’s place is in the driver’s seat.Special thanks to Carla Bailo, Tenille Houston, Jennifer Tisdale, and Dr. Anita Sengupta for taking the chat with me. Their valuable insight and perspective are appreciated. We look forward to hearing more on September 9 – 10.