University of Waterloo is working on the auto industry’s innovation challenges
Auto manufacturers are continuously looking to improve their products, systems and processes. Vehicles and parts need to be lighter, stronger, easier and cheaper to make. They must also be more fuel efficient, environmentally friendly and increasingly – as autonomous technology takes over – more intelligent. But innovation is expensive and labour-intensive, so where do companies turn when they need to enhance a product or solve a pressing problem when they don’t have the resources in-house?
The common misconception when it comes to automation is that it just happens. Like the Terminator stepping from a crackling energy bubble transported from the future, it just arrives fully intact, ready to go.
Roboticists are quick to point out that reality occurs much more slowly. Automation, instead, happens one small step at a time over the course of many years.
Such is the case with cars, which are on their way to becoming self-driving. But, as per the truism of robotic reality, it’s happening more gradually than some proponents may suggest. Also, the process has been under way for decades.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo reached an important milestone this summer by logging their 100th kilometre on public roads in a self-driving car.
Recorded in an industrial area of Waterloo, it was the culmination of almost two years of work since the research team won approval from the Ontario government to do on-road testing in an autonomous vehicle pilot program.
Ontario is becoming a hub of self-driving car development and that’s potentially good news for anyone who’s been stuck in gridlock, or frustrated by the forlorn search for a parking spot downtown in winter. Autonomous and semi-autonomous cars developed in our backyard mean cars that are going to work in our climate – not to mention getting a slice of this trillion-dollar industry.
“We have many of the pieces needed to become a leading player in autonomous vehicle technology, and ultimately – speaking kind of selfishly – for our area to really benefit from it in terms of a better quality of life,” said Oshoma Momoh, chief technical advisor at Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District.
Imagine the day when manufacturing facilities can fix themselves and require no human workers at all. With industry 4.0, that day is a lot closer than you think
Your car has yet to reach its first birthday when the transmission seizes up unexpectedly. A mechanic informs you the culprit is a hairline crack on a gear deep inside the engine block. You haven’t been in any collisions, so how did a faulty part end up in your new vehicle?