Ontario Now First Canadian Province To Let Autonomous Cars Out For A Rip On Public Roads

Ontario will become the first province to let automakers test self-driving cars on public roads, starting January 1, 2016, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced October 13.

“For Ontario, the benefits of being part of automated vehicle innovation are clear,” Del Duca was quoted by the CBC at a speech at the University of Waterloo Tuesday morning. “In order to compete, Ontario needs to be consistent with the approach of U.S. jurisdictions.”

The move is designed to help Canadian companies test and tune self-driving car components and technologies and channel some of the billions of dollars the auto industry is spending on autonomous car development into the province.

The rules set down by the province would allow self-driving vehicles to drive on any road, though most would likely keep to secondary highways and some city streets.

The vehicles would have to have a specially trained operator in the driver’s seat at all times, and a mechanism to disable the technology and give the driver full control.

Autonomous vehicle operators would be subject to all Highway Traffic Act laws and posted speed limits, would have to carry a $5 million insurance policy, and would have to report collisions involving their vehicles within 10 days.

Ontario, which joins California, Florida, and Nevada in permitting autonomonous vehicle testing on its public roads, will also commit another $500,000 to the $2.5-million ConnectedVehicle/Autonomous Vehicle funding program meant to support self-driving vehicle projects at academic institutions like WAVELab, the Waterloo Autonomous Vehicles Laboratory.

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(The Lexus RX350 up top is a good example, a semi-autonomous research vehicle developed in part by the University of Waterloo, with additional funding from Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association.)

Over the past several months, a number of major automakers, including Tesla Motors, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, have announced they’ve launched autonomous car research and development programs, as has tech company Google and Ontario-based auto parts firm Magna International.

(with files from the Globe and Mail and CBC)

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