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Automotive

Liberals give BlackBerry $40M to support futuristic car development

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OTTAWA — BlackBerry is getting $40 million in federal funding to help develop technologies that make cars safer, more connected to cyberspace and, eventually, capable of driving themselves.

The company is putting $310 million of its own money into the initiative, expected to create 800 jobs over the next decade at BlackBerry’s campus in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, as well as support 300 existing jobs there.

The one-time smartphone leader is now working on advanced systems for vehicles and will put the federal money toward software development for the next generation of autonomous vehicles as well as skills training for workers.

BlackBerry says its QNX software is already in 120 million cars, guiding systems related to driver assistance features (such as automatic braking to avoid collisions), hands-free commands, and entertainment.

BlackBerry QNX plans to develop new automated-control systems, upgrade and secure communications in vehicles, and improve car safety by expanding its driver-assistance system.

The company says these are milestones along the road to truly driverless cars, which are still years away from becoming widely available to consumers.

The federal money is coming from the government’s Strategic Innovation Fund, a program intended to stimulate development of innovative products.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference Friday the federal money for BlackBerry QNX software is a sign the government supports Canadian technology companies that want to lead in a new economy.

“Think of this new platform as the central nervous system of your car. It will consolidate things like lane assistance and blind-spot detection, so that the cars of the future are safer and more reliable,” he said.

“For a global leader like QNX, this represents an unprecedented opportunity for growth. Of course, the competition is fierce.”

According to the government, Canada’s expertise in emerging technologies is attracting significant investments in autonomous and connected-vehicle research from global firms such as General Motors and Ford and tech players like Uber, Google and Nvidia.

The QNX technology being developed for cars also has applications for medicine, the military, drones, industrial automation, nuclear power plants and high-speed rail, said senior BlackBerry executive John Wall.

More immediately, the developments will make cars safer, he said.

“I think in 2025 your car’s not going to be very different than it is today, except it’ll have more safety features, and that will trickle down to even the less-expensive vehicles,” Wall said. “What I would like to see out of all of this is less accidents and less fatalities related to cars.”

While BlackBerry is working toward fully self-driving cars, they are not expected to be commercially available in a big way before 2035 or 2040, he said.

The pace of technological development aside, consumers also have to be psychologically ready for the advent of autonomous vehicles, something that might take time.  

In addition, there are myriad regulatory issues to be worked out in jurisdictions around the world to ensure the new applications have government approval and meet common standards, Wall said.

“The technology may be moving faster than the regulatory bodies are moving.”

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Alberta

Insurance rate increases absolutely unacceptable: NDP Critic for Service Alberta

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This post was submitted by Jon Carson, NDP MLA for Edmonton-West Henday, Opposition Critic for Service Alberta

Thirty per cent.

That’s how much auto insurance rates skyrocketed by for some Albertans at the end of this year, after Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP removed the five per cent cap on rate increases that our NDP government brought in, taking a “no limit” approach to how much insurance companies could actually raise rates.

The jump was immediate.

Albertans saw a wave of premium increases bordering on price gouging. Over 90% of car insurance companies filed for rate increases as soon as the cap was lifted, and rushed to bill drivers as soon as they could. Of the companies that received approved rate changes, the increases ranged from 4.9 per cent to an eye-popping 29.8 per cent.

It was a nice gift from Jason Kenney, who already slammed families for hundreds of dollars of new costs in his fall budget, including hikes to income tax, property tax, as well as more in school fees, prescription drugs and college tuition.

As usual, Finance Minister Travis Toews trotted out the UCP’s one-trick pony and blamed the NDP, claiming that insurance companies were set to pack their bags and flee the province if he didn’t let them jack up premiums beyond five per cent.

The lobbying effort came out in full force. The brokers, the insurance companies, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada are working overtime to sell quite the sob story: a massive spike in claims costs, not enough options for drivers, etc, etc. It’s tough times for the poor, little ol’ car insurance company.

What a load. These are some of the biggest and most profitable companies in Canada, and they simply want back the power they had to jack up premiums hand over fist.

The truth is that claims costs over the past few years are level, a fact that’s supported by the Insurance Bureau of Canada‘s own data. In fact, an actuarial analysis by Fair Alberta Injury Regulators, an organization made up of concerned Albertans, doctors and legal experts, found that injury payouts have stabilized in the last few years, and even started to dip in 2019. Their actuary specifically found evidence that claims are “not skyrocketing.”

This is further supported by the Alberta Superintendent of Insurance, responsible for all regulatory oversight of insurers operating in Alberta with a specific duty to ensure that insurance companies treat Albertans fairly. In his annual report for 2018, he found on average that the claims ratio for car insurance was 80 per cent across all companies in Alberta. Not the 120 per cent figure the insurance companies trot out on TV.

And while the UCP Government continues to claim they have documents to prove the cap made the car insurance industry unsustainable, they haven’t provided a single piece of paper showing any of these companies would bail if they could–GASP–only raise premiums five per cent every year.

So why remove the cap? Well, in politics, it’s who you know. And Jason Kenney knows an awful lot of people in the insurance industry. Namely, his former chief of staff and campaign director Nick Koolsbergen, who was hired to lobby the Premier on behalf of the car insurance industry just last year. He has Kenney’s cell phone number.

Sounds like a good guy to have on your side… if you’re a car insurance company.

The fact is, these companies turn a profit of tens of millions of dollars each year. They’re used to having carte blanche in Alberta, and they want it back.

Under the thinly-veiled guise of “red tape reduction”, the UCP has struck a panel looking at more regulatory changes that the insurance lobby itself has said “could also change the rate regulation framework that governs how insurers set premiums.”

If costs are going to go up even more, who will Jason Kenney look out for? His friends and interests in big insurance? Or everyday Albertans driving to work?

Knowing Jason Kenney, Albertans should brace for impact.

Jon Carson is the MLA for Edmonton-West Henday and the Alberta NDP Opposition Critic for Service Alberta.

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Automotive

Is it time for a Wheel Alignment?

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Bad roads can be your wheels’ worst enemy. If you drive down poorly maintained roads, drive through potholes, or even hit a curb, your alignment can be greatly affected. This can cause even the slightest, tiniest alignment issue, which can accelerate uneven tire wear. Make sure you have your alignment checked every 9,500 km or every other oil change. Your tires and your wallet will thank you later. Uneven tire wear is a symptom of bad wheel alignment. Ideally, tires should wear evenly across the tread. If you’re noticing excessive wear on the rear inside tires, you may have too much junk in the trunk or need an alignment adjustment.

Uneven tire wear can also result in less KPL’s and more pain at the gas pump. How will a wheel alignment help my vehicle? Repeat after us: A wheel alignment ensures optimal drivability. It will help your tires last longer, your vehicle drive smoother, ultimately keeping your wheels pointed in the right direction. And, when it drives more smoothly, it’s smooth sailing—or should we say cruising—ahead. Plus, your car will require less energy to keep going, potentially saving a ton of fuel depending on how much alignment was required. Tires are expensive. Keeping them aligned isn’t.

How will a wheel alignment help my vehicle?

Repeat after us: A wheel alignment ensures optimal drivability. It will help your tires last longer, your vehicle drive smoother, ultimately keeping your wheels pointed in the right direction. And, when it drives more smoothly, it’s smooth sailing—or should we say cruising—ahead. Plus, your car will require less energy to keep going, potentially saving a ton of fuel depending on how much alignment was required. Tires are expensive. Keeping them aligned isn’t.

How can I tell if my car’s alignment is off?

There are some noticeable signs that could indicate a misalignment. Just use your eyes, ears and hands. Your senses (and even the good old personal hunch) are good human capital for spotting poor alignment. Here are some common signs that you are dealing with wheels with poor alignment:

• Vehicle pulling to the left or right

• Uneven or rapid tire wear

• Your steering wheel is crooked when driving straight

• Squealing tires

Call to book 403.343.6633 or book your appointment at kippscott.ca

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september, 2020

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