Drive west: Ireland developing as a hub for robot car development
Jaguar Land Rover and Valeo plan west of Ireland expansion for autonomous vehicle tech
‘It’s easy to do autonomous cars in California or Arizona, where the roads are big, the lane markings are clear, and you have great weather,’ says Cormican
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Valeo, the French vehicle technology supplier, are building up a major hub in the west of Ireland for autonomous vehicle research and development. CAV Ireland (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles) is backed by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland, as well as Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Transport, and the Lero research institute. There are plans to build up an interlinked group of companies and research centres, around Valeo’s existing operations in Tuam, Co Galway, and JLR’s new autonomous vehicle development centre at Shannon.
I would challenge any car maker to come down here, to Co Kerry, and take a vehicle from Killarney, around the Ring of Kerry
There are even proposals to build a major test track and proving ground facility, directly adjacent to Shannon Airport, which would allow car makers to test and develop their robotic cars before unleashing them on the roads. JLR has even earmarked a circuit of roads in Co Clare (running from Kinvarra down to Kilrush and back around).
Such development could mean a boost to employment in the area. Speaking to The Irish Times at the Electronomous car technology conference in Killarney, JLR’s John Cormican said: “We started with 12 people, we’re now up to 250. And we intend to keep expanding into the future. It’s been a great journey so far.”
John Cormican of Jaguar Land Rover
Meanwhile, Valeo, the giant French vehicle technology and components supplier, confirmed at Electronomous that it intends “double-digit” hiring of artificial intelligence engineers and developers for its site in Tuam.
Pipeline of talent
Why is the west of Ireland suddenly such a hive of autonomous vehicle technology development? “We’re close to Limerick, Cork, and Galway where we’re based, and in those three cities you have three world-class universities, and three world-class technical colleges, so we have a great pipeline of talent for engineering and software. For the past 30-40 years, we’ve been exporting that talent all over the world which in some ways is great, it’s part of our DNA as a nation. But now hopefully a lot of folks will be staying home and working on tech like this here,” said Cormican. “The amount of tech companies in this country already is mind-boggling. The Dublin tech scene is pretty well known, but out west it’s really growing now. You have ourselves, General Motors, Valeo, Analogue Devices, Cisco, Ericsson, Johnson Controls and more.”