MARKHAM, ON: Canada’s stake in the connected car of the future was firmly established February 19 with the official opening of the GM Canada Technical Centre (CTC).
If ever there was a sign that automotive transportation is changing from a fossil fuel burning conveyance to a mobility machine that thinks for itself, the GM Canada CTC is it.
Located in Markham, Canada’s largest innovation hub, the new campus joins GM’s CTC in Oshawa, the Kapuskasing Cold Weather Testing Facility, the Communitech innovation lab in Kitchener-Waterloo and, finally, an Urban Mobility Campus GM is planning to build in downtown Toronto.
The Markham facility will focus on software research and development for the next-generation active safety, in-car infotainment systems and software and controls related to GM’s development of self-driving vehicles.
It is all part of GM’s stated global “Zero” strategy of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.
Not lost on me, and surely many in attendance, was we were all present at the cusp of the next era of mobility, much as transportation in the 19th century moved from horse and steam power to internal combustion in the 20th century and now to electricity and hydrogen in the 21st century.
Indeed, Steven Del Duca, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development and Growth in his first official event since being appointed, recalled how GM Canada’s origins began in the late 1800s when the McLaughlin Carriage Works in Oshawa was the largest carriage maker in the British Commonwealth — turning one out every ten minutes.
It was the founder’s son Sam McLaughlin, Del Duca said, who saw the future in the automobile, opening the McLaughlin Motor Car Company in 1907 and the rest is history.
The Markham CTC covers 150,000 square feet with state-of-the-art labs and meeting areas all under expansive glass windows for an airy feeling of openness.
Due to the sensitivity of the work being done there, no photography was allowed during tours of the facility.
There are currently 180 employees, but the workforce will grow to 700 as GM seeks to attract Canada’s best minds.
GM Canada president and managing director, Steve Carlisle, said during the opening ceremonies, “At GM Canada we are excited to be giving Canada’s best and brightest software engineers opportunities to help define some of the most important mobility technology changes in a generation.
“Canada’s focus on innovation, talent development and partnerships with the academic sector all bode very well for the future.”
Carlisle said Markham was chosen because it is already recognized as an innovation hub, calling the new CTC the “crown jewel” in GM’s quest for the future.
The search for the new engineers and scientists GM Canada will need in the future was bolstered at the CTC opening with the announcement the company is committing (Cdn) $1.8 million to the GM STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Fund to seek out and encourage Canadian young people, particularly girls, to become innovators.
At the post-secondary level, the fund will also enable young researchers to complete their education through a new series of scholarships at leading universities.
At the opening, GM Canada announced that the first of these scholarships would be at the University of Waterloo, where it will create the GM Canada Innovators Award for students pursing graduate work in engineering.
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