Driverless vehicles and cars wirelessly navigating the information superhighway are not the stuff of science fiction anymore. With this in mind, Canada’s province of Ontario is investing to help make connected car innovation happen.

The Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), on behalf of the province’s Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Research and Innovation, has launched a $1 million program to drive connected and autonomous vehicle technologies to the next level.

OCE said the Connected Vehicle/Autonomous Vehicle (CVAV) Research Program will invest in innovative new transportation technologies that will make Ontario’s roads smarter, safer and more sustainable while improving traffic flow.

The program’s goal, according to the OCE, is to bring businesses and academic institutions together to develop innovations in this rapidly moving area with a focus on projects with high commercialization potential. Projects can receive up to $250,000 over a maximum of two years. Funds must be matched with cash and in-kind contributions.

“This partnership with the Government of Ontario will foster innovation and the growth of next-generation technologies in the province,” said Dr. Tom Corr, OCE’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Through strategic investments, the CVAV Research Program will produce dynamic partnerships that take research and development in this area to the next level.”

Connected vehicles use wireless technology to connect with other vehicles, transportation infrastructure and mobile devices to give motorists information that results in a safer drive.

These autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles rely on sensors and computer analytics to sense their environments and navigate without human input.

“This program is going to be a showcase for some of the most innovative research being done in the area of connected and autonomous vehicles anywhere in the world,” says Reza Moridi, Minister of Research and Innovation. “The projects flowing from this program will not only make Ontario a technology leader, it will create and sustain jobs in the automotive sector.”

The OCE added topics that will receive the highest consideration include products, services and standards to reduce driver distraction; communications management; data management; connected vehicle technology and improving traffic operations and management.

“We are proud to help our partners develop new technologies that improve Ontario’s highways and roads and make our province a leader in connected and autonomous vehicles,” says Glen Murray, Minister of Transportation and Minister of Infrastructure. “These innovations will help people move more safely and easily while creating jobs now and in the future.”