Driverless vehicles: Ontario launches first pilot programme in Canada

View of Toronto skyline

The Government of Ontario has launched the first autonomous vehicle pilot programme in Canada, which will see three self-driving vehicles tested on the province’s roads.

A partnership with The University of Waterloo, the Erwin Hymer Group and Blackberry QNX, the driverless vehicle pilot programme will draw on the research, manufacturing and technology expertise of the project’s partners to develop Ontario’s automated vehicle sector.

The scheme will involve three self-driving vehicle trials:

  • The WATCar Project at the University of Waterloo's Centre for Automotive Research will monitor a Lincoln MKZ for performance and test it on Ontario’s roads at different levels of automation.
  • The Erwin Hymer Group, an international auto manufacturer, will test and monitor a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van at various levels of automation.
  • Blackberry QNX, the Canadian software developer, will test a 2017 Lincoln with automated features. 

“Our pilot has truly given Ontario the opportunity to be a world leader in automated technology,” said Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca.

“We are delighted that Erwin-Hymer, QNX and the University of Waterloo will be the first applicants to test their automated vehicles on Ontario’s roads. 

“We look forward to working with them to advance AV innovation in Ontario’s dynamic business environment.”

John Wall, Senior Vice President and Head of Blackberry QNX, said that the car industry is in the middle of a “significant transformation” as connected cars and autonomous technologies emerge. 

“Today’s announcement is yet another step in our contribution to make autonomous driving a commercial reality,” said Wall.

Blackberry recently signed an agreement with Ford to expand the use of its software in Ford’s connected vehicles.

Pearl Sullivan, Dean of Faculty of Engineering, University of Waterloo, said: “As Canada’s strongest research team in connected and autonomous vehicles, with engineering and computer science professors working in areas from embedded sensors, to advanced control to artificial intelligence, we are very excited with this new frontier for piloting Waterloo Engineering innovations.”

Framework for autonomous vehicle testing

Earlier this year, Ontario became the first province in Canada to create a pilot regulatory framework to test automated vehicles on its roads.

The 10-year pilot is intended to attract autonomous research and development to the province, helping Ontario to become a global leader in automated vehicles. 

The province has also provided funding for industry and academia through the Ontario Centres of Excellence Connected Vehicle/Automated Vehicle Program. The scheme aims to develop and commercialise innovations in connected and autonomous vehicle technologies.

Lower insurance for Canadian drivers with automated safety features

In a separate sign of the potential importance of autonomous driving technologies in Canada, insurer Aviva Canada has announced that it will reward drivers of vehicles with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) systems with a 15% discount on their vehicle insurance policies.

Aviva will apply the discount automatically to drivers’ policies upon purchase or renewal, reflecting its belief in the safety enhancements offered by automated driver assistance systems. 

AEB is a technology that uses sensors to detect possible front-end collisions, and automatically applies the brakes to prevent or reduce damage to the vehicle.

“Automatic emergency braking is quickly becoming a key feature in preventing collisions and reducing their severity. This means less repair costs and more importantly, fewer injuries,” said Jason Storah, Executive Vice President of Broker Distribution for Aviva Canada.  

“It’s simple – our customers who choose vehicles with features that help prevent collisions, or reduce their impact, will pay less for their insurance coverage.”

Around the world, insurers are studying the development of driverless cars and autonomous driving systems with interest, as they work to determine who will be liable if a driverless car is involved in an accident.

Last week, the Association of British Insurers called for standardised data to be made available in the event of a driverless car crash, to prevent drivers being unfairly blamed if self-driving technology goes wrong.