How do you test a technology that doesn’t yet exist? You pretend it does. As a leader in real-time computer simulations to support global manufacturers of vehicles, airplanes, and electric power infrastructure, Quebec-based OPAL-RT Technologies knows how to simulate new technology. 

Their systems help the makers of everyday technologies ensure that travel by road or air will be safe and reliable for Canadians and others around the world. 

When they were approached by a major car manufacturer to develop testing systems for autonomous vehicles, OPAL-RT turned to Mitacs to connect them to the top research talent for their needs. 

Yanique Martin, Director of R&D at OPAL-RT, explains the problem. “Autonomous vehicles create new challenges for car manufacturers: they must now prove that the machine can drive just as well, if not better than, a human, and test the car itself for safety. So, instead of the usual 20 million miles needed to test a new car, the manufacturers need to do 20 billion miles of testing. You simply can’t do that fast enough to get to market quickly. 

“That’s why they’ve turned to OPAL-RT to develop a new generation of simulators that can test vehicle systems before they’re put on the road.” 

Autonomous vehicles represent a completely new field, using technologies that are not yet commonplace. So, building the appropriate simulators require advanced skills. 

“Working with Mitacs gives us access to students who are researching at the leading edge of technology,” says Yanique. “They have special expertise that we didn’t have at OPAL-RT before. They’re adding a layer of artificial intelligence and automation that we need in our platforms to get this new product to market.” 

The company has hosted over a dozen interns, many of whom are now full-time staff. 

Yanique concludes, “We’re competing against some big technology companies in Canada and elsewhere for talent and resources. But by partnering with Mitacs, we can make our funds go further and develop our technology faster, all while getting access to the best talent around. And at the end of the day, we also get a new product that makes our clients happy.”