VR, electric cars part of Windsor's plan for auto industry

Windsor is working hard to stay ahead of the technology curve and remain an auto city.

Virtual reality and electric vehicle research happening in Windsor

Narayan Kar, University of Windsor professor stands behind two electric motors he and his researchers are working on in partnership with Ford Motor Co. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Windsor is known as an auto city.

Though home to traditional auto manufacturing plants like Chrysler and Ford, the auto industry is changing. Windsor is determined to stay involved, using advancements in technology to take automotive manufacturing to the next step.

Electric vehicles

The University of Windsor's CHARGE (Centre for Hybrid Automotive Research and Green Energy) lab is focusing on creating the most efficient, low cost, and durable electric motors. 

CHARGE lab partners with a few big names in the auto industry: Ford, Magna, D & V Electronics.

"We have millions of conventional vehicles and one day we'll replace them with electric vehicles," said Narayan Kar, University of Windsor professor and Canada research chair in electrified transportation systems.

Narayn Kar gives a tour of the University of Windsor's CHARGE lab

3 years ago
Duration 2:03
At the University of Windsor's CHARGE lab research is being done on electric motors for big name companies like Ford Motor Co.

According to Kar, the CHARGE lab is one of the best in North American when it comes to electric motor and motor controllers development testing. The lab receives about $6 million through partnerships that include the federal and provincial government, as well as the University of Windsor.

"The industry will find [our] knowledge useful and they will convert that knowledge into something tangible, something  that can benefit society," said Kar.

Philip Korta is a former CHARGE lab researcher, now masters graduate in electrical engineering from the University of Windsor. He said there a lot of opportunities to work on real life projects. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Former student and researcher, Philip Korta, agrees. 

"There's a lot of opportunities here and we get to interact with real engineers and do real work which is nice," said Korta.

Korta is one of the 90 per cent of his graduating class who got jobs right after they finished university. During his masters he was able to specialize in electric vehicles, and was offered a job at Magna International before he even finished school.

The CHARGE lab has one of the largest research teams at the university, with about 30 researchers on board.

Virtual Reality

Windsor will soon have a virtual reality testing site at The Institute for Border Logistics and Security. The site will allow autonomous automakers to test their products in VR.

CEO of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation said Windsor will soon have a virtual reality testing lab, which will allow autonomous vehicles to test their technology without the costs of physical prototypes. (Vincent Robinet/CBC)

Before new technology goes on the road, some companies test the technology for one million hours. Virtual testing hours also count towards the one million.

"It makes perfect economic sense, also efficiency wise and technology wise is to test something in a virtual environment," said Stephen MacKenzie, CEO of WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation.

MacKenzie said virtual testing will be a cost savings for companies, allowing them to use less resources towards testing. Businesses may also be able to access the virtual reality lab remotely, making it easier for businesses to use Windsor's technology.

"Any idea we're going to pursue," MacKenzie said. "Some of them will work. Some of them won't, but we know what happens if we don't try."