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EV/AV Report: May 17, 2021

Toronto, Ontario — In this week’s EV/AV report, Amazon’s Alexa receives its largest auto rollout after making a six-year deal with Ford. While, Subaru announces an official name for its new, all-electric SUV. Meanwhile, a UWindsor engineering professor receives a hefty grant to improve electric drive systems.

ALEXA, INITIATE AUTO ROLLOUT 

Amazon’s Alexa has seen the industry’s broadest rollout in a six-year deal with Ford Motor Company, announced last week.

This year, the same type of Alexa voice command functionality many people have in their homes will be wired to 700,000 Ford vehicles in Canada and the U.S., followed by millions more over the next few years, said Ford 

Ford will integrate the voice-commanding system into the entertainment system of F-150 trucks and other vehicles, such as the Bronco, Edge, F-150, Mustang Mach-E and Super Duty customers with SYNC 4 Technology. 

Inside their vehicle, Ford customers can ask Alexa to control smart home devices, place calls, locate parking and more. Alexa capabilities delivered through SYNC 4 Technology provide the convenience of hands-free, voice-initiated interactions – minimizing the need for drivers to view or touch screens and helping them keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, says the company. 

Ford customers will be able to access the benefits of Amazon’s world-class voice AI and intelligent features both inside and outside their vehicle. 

Combined with the FordPass skill for Alexa—which customers can continue to use to control vehicle functions such as start and stop engine, lock and unlock doors, check vehicle range or tire pressure all from the comfort of their home—Ford is bringing smart homes and connected vehicles closer together.

SUN AND EARTH

On May 11, Subaru announced that it will name its new full-electric SUV Solterra. 

Designed as a joint venture between Subaru and Toyota, the Solterra features a new, dedicated all-electric platform named the e-SUBARU Global Platform. The joint venture combines Subaru’s expertise in all-wheel drive technology with Toyota’s vehicle electrification technology.

The name Solterra was created using the Latin words for “Sun” and “Earth” to represent Subaru’s commitment to “delivering traditional SUV capabilities in an environmentally responsible package.”

To create the all-new e-SUBARU Global Platform, Subaru engineers worked to bring together the brand’s all-wheel-drive capability, driving dynamics and safety in a versatile, dedicated EV platform. The Solterra joins Subaru’s award-winning line-up of SUVs, including the Outback, Forester, Crosstrek and Crosstrek Plug-in Hybrid. The Solterra will go on sale in 2022.

PROF PROJECT

UWindsor engineering professor Narayan Kar is leading a new $1.8 million research project to make better electric drive systems.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has awarded the electric vehicle expert more than $1 million for the three-year project with Canadian auto parts supplier Magna International, Ottawa-based power device company GaN Systems, and a researcher at Concordia University. The industry partners will add more than $700,000 in in-kind contributions to the research.

“With this project, we want to create a paradigm shift in the field of transportation electrification,” said Kar in a release. “We hope to give Canada a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.”

The research project will examine several elements of the electric drive system and make improvements. The goal is to make electric vehicles more powerful, efficient, and reliable, while making them less costly to produce and maintain.

Magna has had a long-standing relationship with the University of Windsor and with Kar’s Centre for Hybrid Automotive Research and Green Energy, known as the CHARGE Lab for short.

For the project, Kar has brought in Dr. Chunyan Lai, a former member of his lab who has worked on his past collaborations with Magna and is now an assistant professor at Concordia University who researches motor drive design.

Kar said the project is essential in the training of the next generation of electric vehicle experts. The research project provides training opportunities for 15 students and post-doctoral fellows in Kar’s lab and another four in Lai’s lab at Concordia.

The funding Kar has received for the project comes from NSERC’s Alliance grant program.

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