Ontario is funding a new space to test self-driving cars

By: Jessica Mach on November 10, 2017

The government of Ontario launched a demonstration zone for automated vehicles this week, less than four months after the province partnered with the state of Michigan to test drive an automated vehicle across the Canadian-U.S. border.

Based in Stratford, Ont. (a 40 minute drive from Kitchener-Waterloo) the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) is one of the first demonstration zones of its kind in Canada. The zone provides researchers with a space to test automated vehicles in a variety of common traffic scenarios.

Other features of the AVIN include a research and development zone, which facilitates collaborations between automakers, technology leaders, and Ontario-based enterprises; a talent development program, which supports internships and fellowships for students and recent graduates at companies that advance connected and autonomous vehicle (C/AV) tech; and central hub, an online network and team for C/AV research.

The Ontario government has committed to investing $80 million in AVIN, to be distributed over five years. 

“Ontario is a global leader when it comes to research and innovation, especially in areas fundamental to the next generation of vehicles, such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and cloud computing,” said Reza Moridi, Ontario’s minister of research, innovation and science, in a statement. 

AVIN’s launch is part of a growing trend of self-driving car research. In August, tech giant Intel announced its plan to develop a test fleet of 100 autonomous vehicles, set to launch at the end of the year.

Marc Garneau, Canada’s transport minister, believes Canada needs to step up its investment in autonomous tech. Ontario remains the only province to issue permits to groups that want to test pilot autonomous vehicles on public roads. In comparison, 17 states in the U.S. permit testing on public streets and highways.

"From a regulatory point of view, we are running hard to keep up with this developing technology,” Garneau told the CBC in September.

The government of Ontario touts a number of benefits for self-driving cars, including improved fuel efficiency and road safety, the minimization of driver distraction and reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. 

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