General Motors Canada inaugurated its 2908 innovation lab at the Communitech Hub on Thursday last week, with a decided emphasis on “urban mobility” over the traditional concept of the private automobile.
GM Canada president and managing director Steve Carlisle and Communitech CEO Iain Klugman cut a digital “ribbon” in the space’s inauguration ceremony.
The space is called “2908 at Communitech”, anticipating the eventual 1,000 year founding of General Motors in 1908.
“One of GM’s top priorities is to disrupt traditional automotive business models, including our own, in order to anticipate our customers’ needs, today and long into the future,” said Carlisle, who was appointed head of GM Canada in November 2014. “With changing technology, we see tremendous opportunities for GM, Ontario and Canada in an automotive future that is increasingly electric, connected, shared and autonomous. With ‘2908 at Communitech’, we will knock down old approaches, find new partners and boldly go where future mobility is headed.”
Carlisle graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1986 with a degree in systems design engineering, where he did a co-op work placement at GM and subsequently went on to work for the company.
That emphasis on “electric, connected, shared and autonomous” is certainly different than the traditional selling point from auto manufacturers, suggesting a future in which individual vehicle ownership will be less important than smart, urban mobility.
Although GM is the first automotive company to establish a presence at the Communitech Hub, it certainly isn’t the first legacy company to get involved in a space that has made a name for itself as a leader for launching small tech companies.
Canadian Tire, Manulife, Deloitte, Thomson Reuters, Canon, Fairfax and TD Bank Group have also all established themselves at Communitech, rubbing shoulders with budding tech innovators.
“We are very excited to have a global automotive leader like GM selecting Communitech as a partner to help navigate and accelerate the rapid disruptive change sweeping through this industry,” said Klugman. “Automotive is the next big area for rapid growth in the ‘internet of things’ and we look forward to helping GM build strong partnerships and new approaches to urban mobility.”
GM’s focus at 2908 will be developing smartphone applications that work with urban mobility applications, such as ride-sharing, e-bikes and “multi-modal” forms of transportation that include public transit and the use of electric vehicles such as the fleet of Chevrolet Volt autonomous vehicles that the Canadian Engineering Centre has been mandated to build.
GM will be developing their e-bikes in Oshawa, which will be foldable so that they can be easily carried on to public transportation and stowed at work.
GM recently invested $500 million in Lyft, through which it plans to develop an autonomous ride-sharing program.
Chevrolet, a division of GM, has partnered with Enterprise CarShare to offer a fleet of 16 vehicles to students at Ryerson University, the University of Toronto and York University in order to conduct research into urban mobility trends.