On November 28, 2016, the Province of Ontario announced plans to allow testing of autonomous vehicles on its roadways. The pilot program, which was formally launched on January 1, 2016, is now set to take to Ontario’s public roads. The program is being led by The University of Waterloo’s Centre for Automotive Research, with involvement from the Erwin Hymer Group and BlackBerry QNX.

Fully autonomous vehicles are still some years away, and the current regulations in the Province (Ontario Regulation 306/15) are focused on the higher levels of autonomous vehicles and are for testing purposes only. The vehicles involved in the pilot program include a Lincoln MKZ and a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van, with testing at various levels of automation. However, a driver must be present and remain seated in the vehicle at all times, be trained to safely operate it, monitor its safe operation throughout the test, and be able to assume immediate control.

The announcement is part of an investment by the Province of up to $2.95 million over the next 10 years to support industry and academia in the development of autonomous vehicles. In a report published earlier this year, The Conference Board of Canada predicted the automatization of vehicles could result in up to $65 billion in potential savings to Canadians, including $37.4 billion in collision costs, $20 billion in time, $2.6 billion in fuel, and $5 billion in congestion avoidance. Over a 5 year period, fully autonomous vehicles could save Canadians approximately 5 billion hours of their time.

With this announcement, Ontario has become one of the few jurisdictions in North America to enable and foster the development of autonomous vehicles on public roadways. Given the challenge of developing autonomous vehicles to operate on all road conditions in all weather conditions, Ontario is an ideal proving ground, particularly with the investment and support of key industries and government in Ontario.

For more on this development, please read the Ontario News Release.