Engineering researchers at the University of Waterloo have teamed up with the federal government and Magna International to help ensure the safety and security of vehicles as they become increasingly autonomous. 

Announced today, a $1.6-million project headed by Sebastian Fischmeister, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, involves the development of theories, methods and tools to produce complex automotive software for connected and automated vehicles. 

Magna, an automotive parts and mobile technology company for automakers, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) are each contributing $600,000 over five years, while the University will provide $400,000.  Magna is also contributing a test vehicle for the project.

Yash Vardhan Pant, a new professor of electrical and computer engineering at Waterloo, was hired for this initiative as a direct result of the financial support from Magna and NSERC. 

“The automotive industry faces challenges as modern vehicle features heavily rely on software with new approaches such as machine learning that promise significant improvements,” said Fischmeister, director of the Real-Time Embedded Software Group at Waterloo. “While industry races to automate vehicles, it is vitally important to ensure those vehicles remain safe and secure.”

Fischmeister heads the research initiative as the NSERC/Magna Industrial Research Chair in Automotive Software for Connected and Automated Vehicles. Also, a cross-appointed computer science professor and executive director of the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR), Fischmeister’s main research interests include safety-critical systems as well as connected and autonomous vehicles. 

The results of research by professors Fischmeister and Pant are expected to enable engineers at Magna to develop new features and products that improve automotive safety and security, as well as enabling the re-use of developed software to shorten development of more complex products. 

“The importance of safety in automotive systems cannot be overstated,” said Jim Quesenberry, Director of Research and Development at Magna. “Magna is committed to delivering products and systems that not only meet current safety standards but also define the benchmark for future performance.

“By providing a reference autonomous vehicle system, we hope to enable the research team to develop meaningful, automotive-grade solutions from the start. To meet the demands of autonomous and connected systems Magna is excited to work with the University of Waterloo, and the deep knowledge and expertise that they bring to this initiative.”

Magna has long been a major supporter of Engineering and other faculties at Waterloo. It has hired more than 575 co-operative education students in the last 15 years and contributed $200,000 to the new Waterloo Artificial Intelligence Institute (Waterloo.AI) in 2018. 

“We are committed to research that goes beyond imagination, research that positively impacts the world,” said Mary Wells, Dean of Waterloo Engineering. “Industry partnerships that are rooted in real-world needs, like this important project with Magna, are the lifeblood of those research programs.” 

Most recently, Magna donated $100,000 to the Engineering IDEAs Clinic, which runs programs to involve students in intensive, hands-on projects as part of a focus on experiential learning. 

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