Automotive sensing system concept. Autonomous car. Driver assistant system. Adaptive cruise control.
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This government initiative aims to ensure a bright future for the province’s automotive and mobility sectors.

Ontario has long been a leader in the automotive industry. One could argue that Ontario’s dominance in automotive innovation dates back to 1893, when the first electric vehicle in Canada was built by Toronto patent attorney Frederick Fetherstonhaugh. Fast-forward to the 21st century and Ontario’s startups and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) continue to develop cutting-edge technologies and innovations that lead the global automotive sector. AVIN is at the centre of it.

AVIN is the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network, an initiative by Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade and Ministry of Transportation, led by the Ontario Centre of Innovation. It was created by the Ontario government as part of its 10-year plan to drive a prosperous future for the province’s automotive and mobility sectors. The government has committed more than $85 million for this initiative to support SMEs by way of specialized programming like research and development (R&D), talent development, testing, piloting and the commercialization of technologies, and more.

This initiative is unique not only to Canada, but globally as well. Ontario is the leading Canadian jurisdiction in the automotive space. Thanks to a supportive government that prioritizes economic growth, job creation, safety and innovation, Ontario is an auto manufacturing hub and strong in tech creation for the automotive and mobility sectors. Because of this, many jurisdictions across the globe are directed to Ontario as the example. “Jurisdictions are saying, ‘If you really want to own the future of the automotive and mobility sector, look to what Ontario is doing through AVIN,’” says Raed Kadri, the head of AVIN.

This global recognition is important because it attracts automotive and mobility talent to Ontario but also keeps talent at home. With AVIN’s support and government policies, Ontario’s reputation as an environment ripe for building, growing and commercializing in the automotive sector makes this province the place to be.

So how does AVIN accomplish all of this? It leverages collaborations within a robust network of post-secondary institutions such as Durham College, Ontario Tech University, Mohawk College and University of Ottawa and innovation hubs like Spark Centre, MaRS and Innovation Factory. This network also includes various R&D centres, testing facilities, automotive manufacturing, public sector agencies, municipalities including Durham Region, Ottawa, Toronto and Waterloo and the government to foster the development and global commercialization of new Ontario-made automotive and transportation products and technologies. More than 200 Ontario-based companies utilize this network to develop, test and pilot automotive and smart mobility solutions. This provincial network provides invaluable resources — from R&D and specialized testing facilities to business or technical advice and more — making it possible to take these solutions from the development and piloting phases to adoption and deployment, supporting Ontario’s road network, transit system and highways for increasing safety, productivity, efficiency, fluidity and accessibility. For example, AVIN has turned Ontario’s reputation for inclement winter weather into an advantage by providing programming that supports the development and testing of technologies and solutions that enable people to move safely in snow and sleet. AVIN’s programming also enables homegrown SMEs to grow and scale significantly, assists them in building their global strategy, transitions talent from school to work and connects SMEs with real customers or strategic partnership opportunities. “It’s not just one group or individual making this possible — it’s everybody.” says Kadri, “We are building commercialized technology regionally then supporting its adoption and deployment province-wide by bridging our automotive manufacturing and technology clusters with a vast network of resources and support systems across Ontario. We work together and support each other across the province and that model is working phenomenally.”

It’s quite incredible what building regionally and connecting provincially can do. There have been many successful projects born from AVIN’s support. Projects like ROVER SmartFleets, a collaboration between Canadian company Visual Defence Inc. and the Regional Municipality of Durham that uses AI-powered, connected vehicle technology to automatically identify road deficiencies like road and signage damage and right-of-way issues. Another successful project is the Connected Signal Priority by Waterloo-based Fortran Traffic Systems Limited in partnership with Durham Region and the Region of Waterloo. This Advanced Transit Signal Priority (TSP) System uses connected vehicle technology to reduce travel and delay times at intersections for transit vehicles. This technology will not only significantly reduce TSP implementation and maintenance costs but will also decrease fuel consumption and lessen greenhouse gas emissions. The largest accomplishment to come out of AVIN, however, is Ontario’s ability to evolve as the mobility sector does. “What we’ve done through AVIN is transformational,” says Kadri. “Because of AVIN and the government’s support, Ontario has evolved alongside the auto and mobility sectors. We’re part of that evolution and in some cases, our companies are even shaping it.”

That accomplishment hasn’t gone unnoticed. In the last budget, the provincial government announced its commitment of $56.4 million over the next four years to create OVIN, the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network, an initiative that will build on the successful elements of AVIN and focus on autonomous electric vehicles and mobility technology. As technology takes hold of the automotive sector and transitions it into the mobility sector, government initiatives like AVIN and OVIN are cementing the province’s global leadership in automotive, autonomous and electric mobility solutions. In turn, this is creating a generous environment to test, pilot and commercialize these solutions and drive economic growth. “AVIN has bridged our automotive manufacturing and technology clusters and we are continuing to build and scale companies and support existing companies to build new products that will keep our sector, and our economy, growing for years to come.” Kadri says. “Ontario has everything any jurisdiction could ever ask for.”

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