Windsor’s Vehiqilla named one of world’s top autonomous vehicle firms to watch

Dave Waddell/The Windsor Star

Windsor-based automotive cybersecurity firm Vehiqilla has been named one of the top 10 businesses in the world to watch in the autonomous vehicle sector by a firm that tracks millions of startups and emerging companies.

Vehiqilla was the only Canadian company and only automotive cybersecurity firm on StartUs Insights’ 2023 list. It was also just one of three companies in North America selected.

“My first reaction is satisfaction in knowing it’s validation that Vehiqilla is doing something correct and moving in the right direction,” said Vehiqilla founder and CEO AJ Khan.

“We’re being recognized for adding value on the automobility side.

“Vehiqilla has the correct tools and correct solutions and now the market is looking for this. I’m excited that the market is catching up to (our vision).”

Vienna-based StartUs Insights focuses on tracking startups and relevant technologies and has a digital platform that provides information about nearly four million companies worldwide.

Among its clientele are international corporations such as Samsung, Magna International, Siemans, Nestle and Bayer.

Khan said StartUs Insights highlighted Vehiqilla’s work in the area of vehicle fleets for his firm’s recognition.

“One of the things that Vehiqilla is really focused on is fleet security and enabling cybersecurity management,” said Khan, who is also director of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association Institute of Automotive Cybersecurity.

“We work with manufacturers and have provided stuff for them, but ultimately the cybersecurity risk is carried by the fleet owners. That’s a unique perspective that no one else has.”

Khan said he’s talking to logistics companies, car rental firms, municipalities and first-responders’ organizations about using Vehiqilla’s products and technology and expects to see the fruits of those discussions later this year and into 2024. He’s also focused on expanding into the U.S.

The company currently has a partnership with Canadian telematics hardware firm Geotab to use the dashboard Vehiqilla designed in the past year. The dashboard is being used to monitor the 3.5 million vehicles employing Geotab’s telematics products, which help logistics’ firms track their fleets.

“It’s not just about the vehicle itself, it’s securing the entire ecosystem that is the transportation network,” said Khan, whose firm was also a key contributor in the effort to create the first all-Canadian, zero-emissions electric vehicle dubbed Project Arrow.

“The trend is, that as we connect more AV and EV vehicles and move them onto the road, we must secure the road and electric charging stations,” he said. “We must also secure the back-end of the cloud that talks to vehicles.”

Khan credited his company’s growing reputation to his decision to move his young firm to Windsor in 2021 from the Greater Toronto Area. With an automotive focus, he felt he needed to be in the centre of the Canadian supply chain and closer to where the decision-making was taking place in southeastern Michigan.

“The critical part for me is I’m now part of an automobility cluster and involved in the journey,” said Khan, who also helped St. Clair College design its three new cybersecurity certificate programs.

“This is where the local ecosystem really helps, it’s thinking about cybersecurity. Before, I was working on my own in an ecosystem not focused on AVs.”

Khan said the recognition of Vehiqilla by StartUs Insights will also help others to discover Windsor’s growing automobility cluster. He said he’s been getting an increasing number of calls from companies outside the region and country interested in partnering with Vehiqilla.

This recognition shows Windsor has a lot of potential around cybersecurity,” said Khan, who also has extensive international experience in cybersecurity for the finance, oil, aviation and government sectors.

“With the (University of Windsor’s) SHIELD institute, St. Clair College’s programs, Invest WindsorEssex and other organizations, we have a lot of people making it happen on the cybersecurity side.

“We have a lot of building blocks and now the word is out.”