Road testing of self-driving cars on the public roads of Ontario will commence soon, following researchers at the University of Waterloo being granted approval for this by the Ministry of Transportation.
The move means that the populous Canadian province will now join other jurisdictions supporting autonomous driving technologies — very likely to be a rapidly growing industry over the coming decades.
The decision to grant approval to the University of Waterloo’s 3-year autonomous vehicle research program was announced by Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, thusly: “I am pleased to announce that the University of Waterloo is one of the first approved applicants of our Automated Pilot Vehicle program. As a result, Waterloo will be among the first eligible to operate an autonomous vehicle on a public roadway in Canada.”
The press release on the matter provides details:
“Fully connected to the internet and featuring powerful computers to process and analyze data in real time, the test car includes technologies such as radar, sonar, and lidar, as well as both inertial and vision sensors. A researcher will always be behind the wheel and ready to assume control at all times. The vehicle currently operates with some degree of self-driving capabilities, combining features such as adaptive cruise control to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles without intervention by the driver. …
“The goal of the research team, which includes 9 professors working under the umbrella of the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR), is to progressively add more automated features. Specific aims of the Waterloo project include improving automated driving in challenging Canadian weather conditions, further optimizing fuel efficiency to reduce emissions, and designing new computer-based controls. The researchers will test the vehicle everywhere from city streets to divided highways as they add and fine-tune new capabilities.”
The bit about specifically working to deal with Ontario’s weather is interesting. It’s a common argument against self-driving technologies that they won’t be able to function in places with harsh weather like Ontario, not any time soon anyways. Obviously, if researchers show that winter weather in Ontario is no issue, then this argument will fall through.
Partners for the program include NVIDIA and AutonomouStuff.
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