In its efforts to bring is vision of a “connected car” to the road, GM Canada has committed $1 million towards the University of Waterloo’s Engineering Faculty, which it will use to research advanced materials and develop software to connect automobiles to the Internet of Things.
The funding will support a research chair in light-weight materials and sponsor student design projects involving software development. GM Canada will also establish an innovation research outpost within Waterloo’s Communitech innovation research hub with initial focus on urban mobility, car sharing and mobile app innovation.
In a Tuesday speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto, GM Canada president and managing director, Steve Carlisle explained GM’s envisioning of connected cars where sensors within the vehicle, the road and elsewhere in the environment will be connected through high speed mobile networks. He said this will eventually lead to more autonomous vehicles that can avoid collisions or even drive themselves.
“Automotive will be the key driver for the emerging Internet of things, which includes vehicle-to-vehicle connections, road-to-vehicle, huge arrays of sensors driving big data, and very connected drivers,” Carlisle said. “For new car buyers today, especially younger consumers, connectivity is now a top reason to buy a specific model.”
GM has 1 million 4G LTE connected-vehicles in North America, compared to its competitors who have 25,000 combined.
The connected car is one of the three elements GM Canada is focusing on to meet the future mobility needs of drivers which also include sustainability and creating vehicles for increasingly crowded cities. To meet these challenges, it is funding research into new ways to reduce emissions by investing in electric vehicle and fuel cell technology, as well as research into “urban mobility” that could include expanding its vehicle sharing or even having autonomous vehicles that drive people to the closest public transit.
Earlier this year, GM Canada’s engineering centre in Oshawa, Ont., which is newly focused on the connected car and green technologies, announced plans to hire 100 additional software and controls engineers.
The connected car certainly opens up new possibilities for drivers, but it also represents a new target for malware and hackers, so it’s especially pertinent that automakers invest in R&D that keeps IoT-connected cars secure as technology takes over the driver’s seat.