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Students explore world of automated transportation technology

York Region District School Board specialist high-skills major students collaborated with automated transportation experts from the Regional Municipality of York, Ministry of Transportation and Erwin Hymer Group North America in Newmarket yesterday

High school students from across York Region teamed up with industry professionals yesterday to explore the future of transportation.

About 40 specialist high-skills major grades 11 and 12 students, including representatives selected from Sir William Mulock Secondary School and Dr. J.M. Denison Secondary School in Newmarket, teamed up with automated transportation experts from the Regional Municipality of York, Ministry of Transportation and Erwin Hymer Group North American at the Newmarket Community Centre.

The students watched demonstrations of connected and autonomous vehicles, and learned from industry professionals about the use of open data and transportation planning.

Students had the opportunity to travel in a York Region Transit bus with a technologically advanced collision warning system, with image sensing and processing.  

As well, students learned more about an automated camper van manufactured by Erwin Hymer Group North America, based in Cambridge.

Innovation engineer Charlie Rossi explained the entire “house” or living portion of the autonomous conversion E-trek vehicle is electric, powered by proprietary lithium batteries and a fuel cell, with a combustion engine at the front.

The automated camper van allows its occupants to travel further — kilometres click by  while they are sleeping — and to more places.

“We often joke that we want to create the most friction-free environment ever — so you’re literally just enjoying yourself, interacting with your family, you’re not worried about anything, not just driving. In this vehicle, we want to make anything (we can) autonomous, so to speak, we want to make it about the experience, the destination, not about getting there and all the other stuff,” Rossi said.

The van, which sells for about $200,000, depending on options, offers a world-class leisure adventure travel to a mostly retired and affluent demographic, Rossi said.

“We have a variety of customers. Some view it as a lifestyle, they actually live in one of these vehicles year-round and then travel around in it. And then other people buy it for a couple of vacations a year.”

The event also saw students using open data to develop creative solutions around the adoption of connected and automated vehicles, said Christopher Tucker, curriculum consultant for the school board’s Centre for Leadership and Learning.

Organized with The Regional Municipality of York, the event is part of the innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship training for Specialist High-Skills Major students.

“It’s interesting to see the development of technology in transportation,” said Grade 11 Sir William Mulock Secondary School student Gavin Gentry, who is exploring a future career involving “cars, technology and business”.

Tucker said most of the students who attended are considering careers involving transportation in a broad range of sectors, including engineering, data, public policy, municipal affairs, business, emergency services and non-profit.

York Region’s Open Data platform is accessible to the public, providing hundreds of pages of data to anyone searching for information about York Region.

Using seven online personas to represent groups of researchers interested in similar information products, Open Data provides access to secure, trusted data, including maps, dashboards and other data insights that go beyond downloading data. This represents an invaluable resource for students, teachers and residents.

 To learn more about the information available and to see how the information can be used, visit here.