General Motors announces plan to expand research into self driving cars

New centre in Markham is the latest step in GM’s efforts to establish a strong research presence in Canada

OSHAWA, Ont. – Ontario will soon be home to a new software centre tasked with research into self-driving cars, General Motors announced Friday.

Flanked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Kathleen Wynne, officials with the automaker announced the new centre in Markham, Ont. is the latest step in GM’s efforts to establish a strong research presence in Canada.

The company had previously established research-and-development operations in Oshawa and Kitchener, Ont.

Executive vice-president Mark Royce said the industry is on the cusp of major changes as electric and autonomous vehicles gain traction.

He said the company found Canada to be a natural fit for research-and-development expansion.

“We selected Ontario and Canada for this expansion because of the clear capacity for innovation, the proven talent and new talent that we have in this room, an ecosystem of great universities, startups and innovative suppliers that we have here,” Royce told a news conference.

The new initiative is expected to create 700 to 750 engineering jobs over the next several years, bring the total to around a thousand, Royce said.

He said new positions would focus on developing technology for vehicle safety and connectedness technologies, as well as autonomous vehicle software and controls.

GM Canada president Steve Carlisle said their efforts will be felt on a global scale.

“We . . . see an oppportunity for Canada to be part of something even bigger – new, global, innovative supply chain,” he said. “Our Canadian software and technology work has the potential to make its way into the 10 million vehicles that GM designs and produces around the world each year.”

Trudeau hailed the announcement as part of the government’s innovation strategy, and said the arrangement with GM shows that Canada has potential for growth.

“We know that to create good jobs … we have to be on the cutting edge,” he said. “This investment by GM in jobs that will support their operations all around the world shows we’re succeding in that regard.”

GM also announced it would spend $10 million to upgrade its cold-weather testing facility in Kapuskasing, Ont.

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