Invest Ottawa officially launches Ottawa L5 autonomous vehicle test facility

Invest Ottawa, the Government of Ontario, and other strategic partners officially announced the launch of the Ottawa L5 Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Test Facilities, on Friday.

The 16-kilometre track and facilities, originally revealed in January, is a testing ground for autonomous vehicle technologies and is being called the first its kind in North America to accelerate the safe deployment of driverless vehicles.

“Autonomous vehicles and the Smart Cities they drive in will only reach their full potential if the industry comes together to address future pot holes.”

The Ottawa L5 is in the former location of the now-abandoned Ottawa Biotechnology Incubation Centre, in Nepean, just west of Ottawa. Invest Ottawa stated its hopes that the facilities will “catalyze Ottawa’s contribution to the economy, and Ontario’s global CAV innovation leadership more broadly, by promoting the growth of CAV firms, and the development new CAV solutions, firms, talent, and high-value jobs.”

“Autonomous vehicles and the Smart Cities they drive in will only reach their full potential if the industry comes together to address future pot holes that will come from a lack of cybersecurity and data privacy,“ said John Wall, senior VP and co-head of BlackBerry Technology Solutions. “The Ottawa L5 provides the perfect forum to help address these challenges and ensure that the technologies that will drive our shared autonomous future are both safe and secure.”

The initiative was first announced in May 2018 when Invest Ottawa received a $5 million grant from the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) program. AVIN is a program funded by the Ontario government, aimed at building partnerships across the province in order to develop autonomous vehicle technologies. It was noted at the time that full investment in the facility was expected to be even higher, as several large tech firms had installed millions of dollars worth of into new communications technologies.

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Invest Ottawa revealed Friday that the Ottawa L5 is currently valued at more than $11 million CAD, with more than $6 million in in-kind contributions from the projects partners including Blackberry QNX, the City of Ottawa, Accenture, Ericsson, National Capital Commission, Microsoft, Avanade, Juniper Networks, and Nokia. The initiative is also supported by the University of Ottawa, Algonquin College, and Carleton University.

The 16 kilometre private track at the Ottawa L5 facilities Courtesy Invest Ottawa

The Ottawa L5 is comprised of two CAV testbeds, one public (nine kilometres), one private (16 kilometres) and equipped with 5G, 4G LTE, GPS, dedicated short-range communications, and Wi-Fi telecommunications and networking infrastructure. The private testbed is being called the largest secure test facility for CAVs in Canada, offering 1,866 acres and 16kms of paved roads. Invest Ottawa noted that the facility already has more than three dozen SMEs and firms using its public and private tracks, working on CAV R&D, commercialization, and testing.

Invest Ottawa also called Ottawa Canada’s “autonomous vehicle [AV] Capital,” pointing to more than over 90 companies, post-secondary institutions, and other organizations working on CAVs technology. It called Ottawa “ideally positioned to address the needs” of CAV innovators and firms not only for its vast network but also its weather conditions.

“These world-class testing grounds enable Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) testing in Ottawa’s true four-season weather climate, with temperatures that range from +37 to -38 degrees Celsius, and harsh winter conditions marked by heavy snow, sleet, and ice,” Invest Ottawa stated.

RELATED: BlackBerry receives $40 million from government for autonomous vehicle development

The Ottawa L5 also looks to help innovators test CAV operations around safety and security, data collection and analytics, and connectivity.

Ottawa became the first Canadian city to launch testing of on-street autonomous vehicles in collaboration with BlackBerry QNX, in October 2017. It was called the first public autonomous vehicle test in Canada. BlackBerry QNX opened an AV innovation centre in Ottawa in 2016.

“Invest Ottawa has established a strategic plan that focuses on three long range market opportunities: smart government, smart health, and smart cities, including connected and autonomous vehicles,” said Michael Tremblay, president and CEO of Invest Ottawa and Bayview Yards. “The Ottawa L5 and our CAV programs showcase the very best of what Ottawa has to offer, R&D capability, system-wide collaboration among academia, government and industry, and a drive to do big things in world markets.”

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Senior Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.

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