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October 2018

Quebec company drives a billion miles to test the future

At a glance
The team

OPAL-RT Technologies in partnership with École Polytechnique de Montréal, École de Technologie Supérieure, McGill University, Université de Sherbrooke, and Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

The challenge

Drive a billion miles to prove that autonomous vehicles can function better than humans

The solution

Digital simulations of engines and driving conditions to test new cars

The outcome

New real-time simulation platform with the latest in artificial intelligence and automation technology

What's next

Field-testing of the prototype. Commercializing the sleeve and printer system on the consumer and medical markets

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

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.OPAL-RT Technologies

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.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec for their support of the Accelerate research internships in this story. Across Canada, the Accelerate program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Saskatchewan, and Research Manitoba.

Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities: