Self-driving cars will hit the roads in Canada’s Ontario Province shortly after the beginning of the new year, marking a Canadian first.
Ontario launched the Automated Vehicle Program in October 2015 but had received no applications for permits and public testing through at least July 2016, Automotive News Canada reported.
It took nearly a year for the first company to apply for a permit to test autonomous cars on provincial roads.
Three permits to test the vehicles have been issued: The University of Waterloo Center for Automotive Research, the Erwin Hymer Group and Blackberry QNX.
The University of Waterloo has been testing two autonomous vehicles in a large parking lot in Stratford, Ont.
One of the University’s cars, a Lincoln MKZ hybrid sedan nicknamed “Autonomoose,” will be driven for the trails and comes with a bright red kill switch, outlined with a yellow circle, that will disable the autonomy at a moment’s notice.
International automaker Erwin Hymer Group, who has a research center in Waterloo, will be testing a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van to evaluate autonomous technology use in a motor home.
Blackberry’s 2017 Lincoln MKZ will be used to evaluate its QNX software.
Like nearly all autonomous vehicle permits, Ontario requires a licensed driver in the car at all times, but there are no restrictions where the vehicles can go.
In Ontario, “any road is eligible,” said Ross McKenzie, managing director of the University of Waterloo canter. “That’s as flexible as you can get. When you combine that flexibility with our variable climate, that puts us at a distinct advantage.”
Ontario is the geographic center of the Canadian auto industry, which helps make it ideal for testing autonomous vehicles.
Additionally, the province’s weather could be beneficial to autonomous vehicles that need to be exposed to as many conditions as possible, as it’s one of the only areas in Canada with four markedly different seasons.