Fahed Hassanat, a software engineer and uOttawa alumnus (BScA Software Engineering ’04, MScA Electrical Engineering ’14) is the co-founder of Sensor Cortek, a company that was launched in 2019 with Robert Laganière, a professor at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science of the University of Ottawa.
Their company applies artificial intelligence and deep learning to develop state-of-the-art perception systems for autonomous vehicles. Currently, autonomous vehicles rely mostly on cameras and vision systems to gather the data they need to drive safely, but when road conditions are less-than-ideal, snow or mud can obstruct their cameras, and the systems can even become useless when it is too dark or foggy outside.
Sensor Cortek’s team has developed ways for autonomous vehicles to better perceive their environment and operate more safely under all weather conditions by using radar and lidar technologies. The company is a pioneer in applying AI to radar, with the aim of improving autonomous vehicle safety.
To help transform their idea into reality, Sensor Cortek participated in the MakerLaunch program in 2020. MakerLaunch is a nine-month accelerator program that supports the entrepreneurial goals of Faculty of Engineering students and recent alumni.
“The program provided us with the nurturing that we needed to start our business. The access to the lab and to prototyping tools available on campus played a tremendous role in our beginnings. Also, the mentorship and connections that we got through the program were extremely valuable,” says Fahed.
Since the end of MakerLaunch, Sensor Cortek has grown organically and new employs four engineers full time. The company has developed three intellectual properties (IP) and is already licensing their software to companies. Recently, they were selected as one of four companies for a special BlackBerry IVY focused accelerator program with L-SPARK. Collaboration between the four companies is paving the way for innovation in connected vehicle technology, and they are developing the next-gen software-defined vehicles (SDVs) that will improve driver and passenger experiences.
In the coming year, Sensor Cortek will work on developing more IP and hopes to double the size of their team by the end of 2023. When asked what advice he would give to current students who have an idea for a start-up, Fahed said, “Get comfortable with being outside of your comfort zone. That is where you are most innovative and most productive. Going there is intimidating and sometimes out-right scary, but once you are there and in the zone, all of these feelings disappear and are replaced with the joy of achievement”.