One institute's mission to bring Quebec-produced driverless cars to the market

The Innovative Vehicle Institute is looking to develop driverless technology for Quebecers.

The Innovative Vehicle Institute has jumped into the automated car game

Project manager Hugo Normand, driving a partially automated Volkswagen Golf, doesn't need to keep his hands on the wheel as the car navigates the test track. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Hugo Normand may be in the driver's seat, but his hands aren't on the steering wheel.

The project manager at the Innovative Vehicle Institute (IVI) is behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Golf equipped with enough technology to give the car partial automation.

IVI is a non-profit research centre that works with different businesses and is affiliated with Cégep Saint-Jérôme. Its mission is to research and refine technology for the transport industry.

For the past three years, they've been producing and testing automated off-road vehicles, such as farming and maintenance equipment.

But four months ago, they paired up with German car company Kopernicus Automotive to branch out to personal automated cars.

"Everybody talks about autonomous vehicles and that's the field of the future!" said IVI's general manager François Adam.

"It's the logical next step. I mean, we wanted to start with off-road stuff because there's less legislation to look into. After that, you want to go on roads."

IVI general manager François Adam wants to bring driverless vehicle technology to Quebecers. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Taking it for a spin

With Adam watching on the sidelines, Normand takes the Golf out for a test run at Transport Canada's Motor Vehicle Test Centre in Blainville.

Right now, the car is equipped for level-two automation.

"The car can drive by itself, but you still need to be aware of what's going on," said Adam.

"You still need to be able to take control of the car at any moment."

Some Teslas already have that option in their cars; that level of automation is legal on Quebec's roads.

"As it's something that will go on the streets, we need to do a lot of testing to make sure that everything is perfect before it's released," said Adam.

The end goal, though, is full automation.

'Extremely revolutionary'

Many in the car industry look forward to the day autonomous cars take to the streets, but they also note it won't happen overnight.

"Fully autonomous cars which will be able to drive inside a city, be aware of pedestrians, cyclists, of any traffic like parked trucks that are delivering goods, it will take quite a few years before we get there," said Simon-Pierre Rioux, the president of the Quebec Association of Electric Vehicles.

Still, Rioux thinks we'll get there and when we do, it will be for the better.

"We'll be using fewer cars, it will decrease congestion on the roads, it will decrease greenhouse gas emissions," he said.

The Innovative Vehicle Institute has teamed up with Kopernikus Automotive to beef up this Volkswagen Golf with enough technology to make it partially automated. (Charles Contant/CBC)

About the Author

Sarah Leavitt

Journalist

Sarah Leavitt is a journalist with CBC Montreal.