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Converging auto and IT sectors gather for symposium

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Innovators from the automotive and information technology (IT) sectors gathered at the University of Waterloo today to explore the shared future they’re helping to shape.

The third annual AutoTech Symposium attracted 120 participants, primarily from Ontario and Quebec, for a day of keynote addresses, panel discussions and industry exhibits in the new Engineering 7 building.

Jennifer Biesinger of Tektronix, one of the industry exhibitors at the 2018 AutoTech Symposium, displays a real-time representation of electronic interference at the one-day event.

Jennifer Biesinger of Tektronix, one of the industry exhibitors at the 2018 AutoTech Symposium, displays a real-time representation of electronic interference at the event.

Ross McKenzie, managing director of the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR), said the event is an important forum for decision-makers in the auto and IT industries as they increasingly work together on the vehicles of the future.

“There is a convergence going on inside the passenger vehicle today,” he said. “We’re getting connected vehicles and we’re moving rapidly towards autonomous vehicles with that convergence.”

Participants heard from futurist Nikolas Badminton and Arianne Walker, the head evangelist of Alexa Auto at Amazon, and toured Waterloo facilities including the Engineering IDEAs Clinic and the Green and Intelligent Automotive (GAIA) lab.

Panel discussions ranged from connectivity and advanced driver-assistance systems, to the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to power advances in mobility.

One session dealt with sensor technology to monitor drivers - and potentially passengers as well - for vital signs of health such as heart rate and indicators of fitness to be in control.

Data with a 'layer of knowledge built upon it'

Joel Adams, director of engineering innovation at recreational vehicle maker Erwin Hymer Group North America, said a key will be turning all the data produced by sensors into useful tools such as warnings when drivers are  falling asleep.

“I’m interested in data that has a layer of knowledge built upon it,” he said.

One of the few events of its kind in North America, the symposium was hosted by WatCAR in partnership with Waterloo EDC, the investment promotion agency for Waterloo Region.

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