Apple Setting Up Research Lab In Canada, Report Says. Will It Be Involved In Driverless Cars?

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Could it be that the falling loonie is finally having a positive effect on Canada?

With the Canadian dollar down more than 30 per cent against the U.S. dollar in the past few years, Canadian labour is a lot cheaper on the global marketplace than it used to be. That should make Canada a more attractive place for foreign companies looking to set up shop.

Now comes word, from the Ottawa Business Journal, that Apple — the world’s largest company by market value — is setting up a research facility in Canada.

According to “sources” cited by the business weekly, Apple has leased 22,000 square feet of office space in Kanata, a west-end suburb of Ottawa known as a tech hub.

apple building ottawa
411 Legget Dr. in Kanata, Ontario, will reportedly house a new Apple facility. The building’s main tenant is mobile tech company DragonWave. (Photo: KRP Properties)

But it may not be Canada's suddenly-cheaper labour force Apple is after (though it certainly can't hurt). Tech blogs have lit up with speculation that the facility could be used in the development of Apple’s driverless car, dubbed the iCar.

That’s because Apple’s purported new office is down the road from the offices of BlackBerry-owned QNX Systems, a company that develops mobile software for cars, and recently started developing software for driverless cars.

“Companies often buy offices near their competition to try and attract engineers,” writes the 9to5Mac blog. “Employees are more likely to move if they do not have to relocate. It is possible Apple is interested in QNX automotive talent, especially as it relates to self-driving cars.”

The rumours are entirely unconfirmed; HuffPost Canada has reached out to Apple for comment, and we'll update this story as warranted. But if it's not about QNX, then maybe we can thank the falling loonie for this development.

Read more: Apple Canada Prices Hiked As Dollar Slumps

Reports and rumours about an Apple car project have been flying around for a year. Reports indicate the “iCar” or "Apple car" will be electric, but it’s unclear how autonomous it will be.

Some analysts have played down the reports of an Apple car altogether, insisting that the company is actually interested in something a little less ambitious: Integrating its mobile operating system, iOS, into car dashboards. (I.e., use your iPhone hands-free while driving.)

Either way, Apple’s proximity to BlackBerry’s QNX would be helpful — if indeed they are looking to poach staffers from the company.

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