Ontario, Michigan collaborating on advanced automotive and mobility technology

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Ontario and Michigan are looking for tech solutions to alleviate pressure along their shared borders.

The two auto-producing powerhouses have issued a joint Request for Proposals (RFP) to study and analyze the economic potential of expanded border capacity, and other benefits through the use of advanced automotive and smart mobility solutions at international border crossings.

The RFP calls for the consultant to identify and outline the potential economic, social, and environmental benefits that could result from increased collaboration between Ontario and Michigan around technologies, solutions, and innovation in the automotive and mobility sector.

Combined, Ontario and Michigan are responsible for about 22 percent of North America’s automotive output.

The consultant is also required to provide recommendations for application and technology deployments that could alleviate safety, congestion, and mobility challenges at border crossings.

The consultant’s final report should provide the high-level steps needed to support a cross-border sandbox, according to the RFP.

Some of the data being collected includes crash and collision data, and information on traffic congestion, border wait times, and daily and seasonal variations in traffic flows.

According to the RFP, the report should consider the promotion of sustainable transportation opportunities, as well as requirements for the alignment of ITS and infrastructure standards, and aspects relating to cybersecurity and privacy.

Potential project locations include the Detroit/Windsor International Bridge Crossings; the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel in Detroit; the International Bridge in Sault Ste Marie, the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit; and the Blue Water Bridge Crossing in Port Huron.

The RFP is part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the province and the state have signed. The purpose of the MOU is to explore the potential of a cross-border testing environment that would support further commercialization and adoption of auto and transportation technologies in Ontario.

Combined, Ontario and Michigan are responsible for about 22 percent of North America’s automotive output. The state and province share a highly integrated automotive supply chain, with vehicle parts crossing the border several times before rolling off the assembly line in finished vehicles.

As well, many companies operate on both sides of the border, with engineering expertise and technology innovation shared between the two AutoTech hubs.

The MOU sets out a number of goals. They include Identifying issues and challenges for people and goods related to specific types of border crossings (by land, air and water) and how transportation technologies could offer solutions; and exploring the regulatory and policy considerations involved.

The province and the state will also develop a roadmap for the initiative that would include steps to establish cross-border pilots for transportation technologies.

Vic Fedeli, Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, called the collaboration pioneering and said that it “illustrates the combined strengths of Ontario and Michigan as innovation partners at the leading edge of electric, connected, autonomous and mobility technologies.”

“This forward-looking approach is essential to ensure our region remains at the forefront of a global industry that is fiercely competitive and continually subject to the forces of technology disruption,” added Fedeli.

It’s not the first time the state and the province have tested automotive technology together. In 2017, Michigan and Ontario collaborated on North America’s first cross-border automated vehicle test drive.

In late July, the Toronto-based IBI Group, Canada’s largest architecture firm, was awarded the contract for the modernization of the existing toll system infrastructure at the Blue Water Bridge. The bridge connects Port Huron, Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario.

Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge
The International Bridge connecting Sault Ste Marie Ontario with Sault Ste Marie Michigan

IBI Group also received a contract for the toll system for the International Bridge, connecting Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

The Blue Water Bridge services up to 250,000 crossings per month, while the International Bridge services up to 150,000 crossings per month.

IBI’s toll system includes an enhanced transaction management and analytics platform, including trend analysis, performance monitoring, live monitoring and management of assets, transaction and revenue reconciliation, and auditing.

Ontario has more than 300 companies and organizations pioneering connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. This ecosystem is strengthened by the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN), led by the Ontario Centre of Innovation.

AVIN connects the province’s world-leading automotive and technology sectors, high-quality post-secondary institutions, talent and regional infrastructure to support entrepreneurship and create jobs.

Ontario’s 2021 budget announced further support for the auto sector by investing $56.4 million CAD over the next four years to build on the successful elements of AVIN and create the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN). OVIN’s expanded mandate will help foster the next generation of electric, connected and autonomous vehicle and mobility technologies in Ontario.

More than half of Michigan’s automotive suppliers conduct automated vehicle testing in the state. Michigan offers more than 600 miles of roadway equipped for connected vehicle testing, and it is building the road of the future with a new 40-mile connected corridor project being led by the Michigan Department of Transport and the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification.

In 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer created the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. It works across state government, academia and private industry to enhance Michigan’s mobility ecosystem, including developing dynamic mobility and electrification policies and supports the start-up and scale-up of emerging technologies and businesses.

For 2020, two-way goods trade between Michigan and Ontario was valued at $60.1 billion CAD ($44.8 billion USD). The state and province are each other’s top export customer. This trade relationship supports thousands of jobs on both sides of the border.

More than 25 percent of the more than $700 billion in annual trade between the U.S. and Canada crosses the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit, the most active border crossing in North America.

Feature image courtesy Unsplash.

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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