There is a corner of Ireland where taking a drive along the road from the airport will soon be like driving into the future. In Shannon, County Clare, there are plans to capitalise on collaboration among a growing number of companies operating in the technology sector by developing a future mobility campus in the town. The move is the latest step in the development of Ireland as a hub for the development of connected, autonomous, shared and electrified vehicles.
John Cormican is General Manager of Vehicle Engineering at Jaguar Land Rover Ireland, which last year opened a 88,000 sqft Global Centre of Excellence for connected and autonomous vehicles near Shannon Airport.
At Enterprise Ireland’s CASE: Driving the Future forum, Cormican explained: “What we’re doing, together with a bunch of partners, is putting together a smart city IoT campus where we can prove out our technologies in a physical area. A test bed scenario, essentially.”
Why the future of mobility is forming in Ireland
Jaguar Land Rover’s selection of Ireland as location for this centre for researching, developing and integrating new technology and software into cars epitomises a shift in the focus of car manufacturers, away from traditional automotive manufacturing bases such as Detroit towards technology hubs such as Silicon Valley and Ireland.
“People haven’t typically associated automotive with Ireland,” Cormican said. “We don’t have a heavy manufacturing footprint like Detroit, Germany or Japan. What Ireland does have is a huge amount of technology. Facebook, Google, Intel, Cisco, Ericsson, Valeo, Johnson Controls, Uber, Analog Devices, Microsoft, Dell, Salesforce, LinkedIn – all of these companies and others are employing hundreds of thousands of people in technology in Ireland.”
The presence of these multinational companies has spawned a tech ecosystem of innovative Irish companies who are developing products and applications across multiple sectors.
Cormican said that the capabilities that exist, for example, in the CAV (Connected Autonomous Vehicles) Ireland cluster of companies, together with the collaborative nature of the organisation, are attractive for automotive OEMs such as Jaguar Land Rover.
“Most of these companies are not designing automotive-specific solutions,” he said. “They’re designing cool technology that can fit into aerospace or can fit into IoT applications or can fit into automotive or mobility services,” he says.
“Whether they’re sensor companies or artificial intelligence companies or cybersecurity companies, they’re all creating different technology solutions, which can now be relevant for the automotive market, which wasn’t the case five or ten years ago when it was mostly about engineering components.
“The supply chain has been greatly disrupted and the relationships we have now are going away from a traditional OEM tier one, tier two, tier three supplier model towards a lot of collaboration and innovation. That’s because sometimes the technology and solutions are emanating from a tier two or tier three supplier in the old way of thinking – so why wouldn’t we have a direct relationship with them to understand how their technology works and how we get it embedded in our vehicles?”
Why Jaguar Land Rover chose Ireland
Alongside this burgeoning capability, other factors that made Ireland such a compelling location for Jaguar Land Rover included the availability of talent at universities and institutes of technology.
Cormican said: “We’re employing people with different skillsets than other locations – people with skills in software engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning, embedded software, virtualisation, cloud services, functional safety, and cybersecurity. There is a constant flow of graduates with skills in these areas.”
The future of mobility is a journey towards connected, autonomous, shared and electric vehicles. In Ireland, it is also a journey of collaboration which Cormican believes is only just beginning.
“It’s a genuinely exciting time because it really is a transformation. It’s about people having mobility services in the near future, where they would have been excluded in the past. People who perhaps can’t drive or don’t want to drive will have many more options. In Jaguar Land Rover, we call this the Destination Zero strategy – zero emissions, zero congestion, and zero accidents.”