A long history and a dynamic future for the automotive sector in Durham Region

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Durham region is known for its strength in the automotive sector and as a leader in energy innovation. Today, these sectors are converging and creating new opportunities.

Durham region has long been at the forefront of the automotive industry, with a history of innovation that dates back to 1832, when R.S. “Sam” McLaughlin launched his horse-drawn sleigh and carriage company in Oshawa. Over time, carriages made way for automobiles, as Robert McLaughlin & Sons rebranded to McLaughlin Motor Company—which later merged with Chevrolet to become General Motors of Canada (GM). Today, the General Motors Canadian Technical Centre in Oshawa serves as an integral part of GM’s Global Engineering operations. Volkswagen Canada, Lear, and other large manufacturers continue to call Durham region home and recent significant investments have strengthened Durham region’s position in advanced automotive and parts manufacturing.

Talent & Research

Durham region’s post-secondary schools are graduating the top-tier talent needed to support the industry, especially at Ontario Tech University. Their involvement in the future of automotive includes:
• Home to the only accredited automotive engineering program in Canada
• The Creation of ACE Aerodynamic Climatic Wind Tunnel. This is a world class facility used by major manufacturers, Industry/Academic collaborative R&D, and academic research to test and develop their products and bring ideas to market. ACE provides a full range of testing facilities, including one of the largest Aerodynamic climatic wind tunnels in the world, that can be used to run multiple weather simulations. They can recreate any weather conditions a vehicle will experience anywhere in the world, from the blistering heat in Death Valley to the frigid conditions in the Arctic. Vehicles can be tested operating under full load with crosswinds and wind speeds up to 280 km/hr.

“ ACE is a solutions provider that drives innovation. Our most recent enhancements include a unique plug and play system of swapping a moving ground plane (MGP) with a dynamometer. We are the only tunnel in the world to share the same airflow for full vehicle powertrain / HVAC development on a dynamometer and world class aerodynamic force measurement system using a custom MGP.” – John Komar, ACE Executive Director

Ontario Tech University is also involved with the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association (APMA) of Canada. They launched the first original, full build, zero emission concept vehicle named Project Arrow. This was a joint effort of the world class automotive supply sector in Canada and post secondary institutions. Ontario Tech University will be the lead academic institution for Phase 2 of Project Arrow, with engineering specifications and aerodynamic testing to take place at the ACE Climatic Aerodynamic Facility.

Research and Innovation are also centralized in Durham region. The region is home to General Motor’s Canada Canadian Technical Centre(CTC) and the McLaughlin Advanced Technology Test Track. The track will be used for the development integration of software and hardware for a variety of new technologies and advanced vehicle systems, including vehicle motion embedded controls, advanced driver assist features, autonomous research, all-electric propulsion, and infotainment. The facility spans some 55 acres and joins GM Canada’s technology operations to bring the total to four sites, three of which are in Durham region. The CTC is now GM’s largest software engineering and development center outside the United States.

Other Innovative highlights in the region include being home to one of the six Regional Technology Development Sites (RTDS) across the Province of Ontario. The Durham site has a focus on Human Machine Interface and User Experience.

In addition to RTDS the region can showcase sector start ups including Axcessiom Technologies – A facial gesture-based Driver Assistance System, for drivers with disabilities who are unsatisfied with existing vehicle adaptations. Plus Korechi innovations’ RoamIO, an autonomous robot enabled with AI and high precision spatial awareness to automate tasks and address shortage of skilled labour for fruit and vegetable farmers.

Durham region has always been an automotive leader and now is becoming an important location for innovations in electric and autonomous mobility. To learn more please visit Invest Durham.