Ford boosts research in Canada for connected cars

US auto maker Ford boosts investment in research and development of connected cars at its Canadian facilities

US auto maker Ford announced Thursday it will invest Can$500 million (US$376 million) in Canada to create 300 research and engineering jobs amid its drive to connect cars to the internet.

The governments of Canada and Ontario province also pitched in with grants of Can$102.4 million each.

The monies will go to support a new Ottawa lab focused on infotainment, in-vehicle modems, gateway modules that allow various vehicle systems to communicate with each other, driver-assist features and autonomous vehicles.

Also Ford said it would increase staff at facilities in Windsor and Oakville, Ontario, developing new powertrain technologies, alternative fuels and lightweight materials for use in cars and trucks, as well as technology to capture industrial emissions and convert them into fuels.

The Oakville facility and another in Waterloo, Ontario, will work in parallel with labs in the US states of North Carolina and Florida. A further 100 jobs are being created in the United States.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the new employees being hired by Ford from Canadian firm BlackBerry, which recently outsourced manufacturing of its smartphones to focus on software development.

Ford's "infotainment" system uses software developed by QNX, a BlackBerry subsidiary, it noted.

The new hires more than double the size of Ford's mobile connectivity engineering team.

The global market for connected vehicles will exceed US$131 billion by 2019, after growing 30 percent annually, according to a study by Transparency Market Research that was cited by Ford.

Ford plans to equip 20 million vehicles with integrated modems over the next five years.

The second-largest US car company had previously announced it would spend Can$700 million to refurbish its Windsor and Oakville assembly plants.

"The automotive industry is driving Ontario's economy," said Kathleen Wynne, premier of the province, which employs 100,000 workers in assembly and parts manufacturing.

In the past five years, Ontario has produced more cars than any other province or US state in North America, or about 15 percent of total passenger vehicle production, according to Wynne.