Canadian province Ontario is looking to take the first step into a more technologically advanced future by permitting automated vehicle road tests on its streets. The news comes from Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, who said, "For Ontario, the benefits of being part of automated vehicle innovation are clear."
Self-driving cars will see the green light as early as January 1, 2016. Ontario is set on keeping pace with state governments in the United States that have already given autonomous vehicles space on their roads. Nevada, California, and Texas, as well as Michigan, have passed legislation that allows for driverless cars to take test drives along with millions of human drivers. Virginia has also had a part to play, reserving over 100 kilometers of roads for the same purpose. Still, these states are only a few of the nation's 50, meaning there is time to be recognized as a leader in autonomous vehicles.
Ontario is making its way to the top of the list in Canada, where its minister of economic development Brad Duguid said, "We intend to be leaders in this disruptive technology." Self-driving cars are seen as the next frontier in automation, and their impact could be significant, considering the amount of work poured into similar projects from all the industry's biggest players. Tesla Motors, BMW, Nissan, and even tech giant Google are building some of the world's first fully automated vehicles. Google, along with some of the others, have been test-driving its vehicles in California and now Austin, Texas, and the search giant's efforts have been impressive. There are currently 48 Google branded driverless cars traveling on roads in the US.
Ontario has also set aside $500,000 in additional funding for the Ontario Centers of Excellence Connected Vehicle/Automated Vehicle Program. The province is hoping the money will contribute to the future of innovation in transportation, as well as the $2.45 million previously awarded to the program.
Although Google has been seen as a pioneer in the automation field, the auto industry is providing competitive alternatives. Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla released the newest version of its software to owners of the Tesla Model S yesterday. Version 7.0 integrates some level of automation, allowing the car to change lanes and park on its own, as well as other tasks. The enhancements cannot quite provide a fully autonomous experience, however.
Google and other companies may be interested in sending several self-driving cars to Ontario, now that the legal hassles are out of the way. The more test-driving done, the more advanced and generally competent each company's final products will be when they launch. The world is on the verge of knowing the true worth of autonomous vehicles, and with provinces like Ontario opening their streets, the future of self-driving cars looks bright.