Imagine talking on Skype at home, then jumping into your car to continue the conversation through the phone speaker system — all without ever having to lose your internet connection. Now imagine integrating multiple cell phones into the mix. Sound like wishful thinking?
“All of these features will become mainstream,” says Steve Rodgers, President of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA), which launched the Connected Vehicle project, a world-class approach to promoting Canadian capabilities and technologies.
Donated by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, the Connected Car was first unveiled at APMA’s annual conference in Windsor in June, exhibiting the latest advancements in auto and communications. The Lexus is fully outfitted with innovative components and software from 13 Canadian companies.
“Canada is the only country in the world with this type of demonstration vehicle; where everything is integrated into the architecture,” says Rodgers.
“The ultimate goal of this project is to showcase Canadian capabilities in order to create business for the companies that are participating in the project; to help them secure new sales and revenue and acquire new partners. And of course, to create jobs in Canada.”
At a time when car assembly and manufacturing investments are decreasing in Canada, showcasing our competitiveness with innovative products that feature high-tech components and software — often at lower costs — is critical. It’s also a unique approach to helping small and medium-sized companies, many of which are non-traditional automotive suppliers, overcome some of the challenges of competing in the industry.
“If you’re a million-dollar company, getting a chance to show your technology to Ford or Toyota, that kind of exposure is tough to beat,” says Export Development Canada’s (EDC) Automotive Sector Advisor Chris Bertrand. EDC is one of the sponsors of the Connected Vehicle project.
“This initiative is a great example of integrating the strength of the greater Canadian automotive landscape in a running, working vehicle and showcasing these capabilities to the right contacts with the right original equipment manufacturers (OEM),” says Bertrand.
Connected technologies range from faster data delivery and interactivity to safety features, enhancing the user experience and changing the way we drive. That means state-of-the-art driver monitoring systems, advanced vehicle sensor systems and gesture-based control systems; important components like advanced emergency vehicle warning technology and alcohol countermeasure systems; and fun details like the ability to change the interior lighting for a personal approach.
And let’s not forget seamless internet connections so you no longer have to worry about getting cut off.
Given the success of the Connected Car initiative, more Canadian suppliers are emerging for future iterations. And that, says Rodgers, is good news.
“We have a lot more companies with next-generation technologies. The idea now is to add in new technologies that are production ready,” he says. “It’s exciting in that we are getting visibility. We’re matching the people to the right set of connections at the OEMs.”
So how likely is it you’ll see some of these features in your next car?
“Every year we’re seeing more of these features being added,” says Rodgers. “We think a lot of these Canadian technologies that we’re showcasing will end up in production vehicles. Everywhere we’ve shown the car, the reaction is: I want that in my vehicle.”