Canadian comedian Dan Aykroyd may be full of praise for his home and native land but he’s got little time for putting autonomous vehicles on Canada’s challenging winter roads. That goes against the grain of Canadian tech research, which is promoting itself as a world leader in the autonomous vehicle R&D.
Whether you were aware of it or not, Canada celebrated National Caesar Day last Thursday, honouring the Canadian-made cocktail and promoted by the former Ghostbuster who is also the co-creator of Crystal Head Vodka, based in Newfoundland. Aykroyd spoke to BNN Bloomberg about the Caesar celebration, while at the same time pontificating about how Canadian winters and self-driving cars are a bad combo.
“I love these self-driving cars — yeah, come up to Kingston and get on that black ice in winter. How are you gonna handle that?” says Aykroyd. “You’re going through the [Paris, Ontario] snow belt, it’s a complete whiteout, the road is a shag carpet with oil on it. Self-driving car! Are you kidding me? What a hoax!”
Others may beg to differ. That would include tech company BlackBerry, whose QNX lab street-tested the first autonomous vehicle in Ottawa last year. Or Toronto, home to one of three Uber autonomous vehicle test cities. Or even the town of Stratford, Ontario, which has become a “snowtonous” research centre, one where Japanese semiconductor company Renesas Electronics has set up a research track, specifically trying to address winter issues such as how to deal when snow and sleet cover up a car’s camera lenses.
“In order for the car to have enough sensors to be robust against all different types of climates it means there are going to be a lot of sensors,” said John Buszek, director of Renesas’ autonomous and advanced driver-assistance division.
Earlier this year, a KPMG International survey found that Canada placed high on the list of countries likely to have autonomous vehicles in the near future. The KPMG Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index found that Canadian policy and legislation, as well as infrastructure and consumer acceptance were all amenable to the introduction of autonomous vehicles. Canada also fared well in terms of technology and innovation, particularly when it comes to R&D hubs and government funded autonomous vehicle programs.
“Southern Ontario has a perfect ecosystem to support [autonomous vehicle] research and testing,” says Gary Webster, National Leader, Infrastructure KPMG in Canada. “It is the fourth largest exporter of vehicles in the world, with manufacturing facilities for GM, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, Toyota, Honda and their supply chains. Its Waterloo-Toronto Innovation Corridor includes research universities and technology companies, convincing Uber and General Motors to move jobs there.”
Aykroyd said his own version of the Caesar, the Hot-Head Caesar with Sriracha sauce, celebrates “the fire and creativity that Canadians have in their minds and hearts.”