Techopia Live: Ottawa’s automotive tech sector quickly maturing

As players in Ottawa’s connected and autonomous vehicles sector gathered at the CAV Canada conference in Kanata this week, Techopia Live went down to the Brookstreet Hotel to see first-hand how the capital’s automotive tech cluster is motoring along.

Representatives from Ottawa’s roughly 90 CAV companies were joined by public servants, academics and keynote speakers from the likes of Ford and General Motors to delve into the sector’s pressing issues and exciting prospects at Ottawa’s fourth annual CAV summit.

After years of Ottawa calling itself Canada’s CAV capital, Techopia Live assembled a panel of local business leaders to talk about how far we’ve come in establishing the city as a leader in autonomous vehicle development.

“As far as the momentum in our ecosystem around CAV, I think it’s incredible, and we’re sharing that story with the world,” said Sonya Shorey, Invest Ottawa’s vice-president of strategy, marketing and communication, about the CAV conference. 

She noted that recent developments, such as Aurrigo’s autonomous pod pilot through the Marshes Golf Club and the opening of the L5 test facilities, were proving why Ottawa is an attractive landing pad for companies looking to work on self-driving vehicles.

Veronica Farmer, director of operations at the Kanata North Business Association, noted that the “CAV capital” moniker contributes a certain cachet to the tech park’s recruitment drives.

“It’s critically important that … we amplify that brand internationally,” she told Techopia Live. “We’re trying to attract that world-class CAV talent, and it’s important that everybody knows that we’re here and that we’re doing great innovation and technology, that this is the place to be.”

Few people know that work better than Grant Courville, the vice-president of products and strategy at BlackBerry QNX. He said that in recent years, the CAV development arm of the Waterloo-based tech giant has received no shortage of interest from both job seekers and prospective R&D partners looking to work on automotive tech. Events such as CAV Canada are important to generate the hype needed to take the next steps in autonomous vehicle development, he told Techopia Live.

“They see this critical mass of companies, technology, people, passion and enthusiasm – they want to be part of it,” Courville said. He went on, comparing the CAV fervour in Ottawa to a snowball effect: “It started small, accelerated very quickly, and now you’re seeing it grow like crazy.”

"They see this critical mass of companies, technology, people, passion and enthusiasm – they want to be part of it."

The CAV Canada panel told Techopia Live to expect more big names in automotive tech to put down roots in Ottawa – Shorey even teased one announcement coming soon – as the capital continues to establish itself as a go-to destination for connected cars. The more Ottawa can attract talent and major automotive players to the region, the bigger the impact the city’s CAV hub will make on the sector’s future.

“Innovation happens in collaboration,” Farmer told Techopia Live.

To hear more from the floor of CAV Canada 2019, watch the video above.