Canada’s first on-street autonomous vehicle test takes place in Ottawa

When an autonomous vehicle in Ottawa became the first in Canada to take part in an on-street test yesterday, the city’s Mayor, Jim Watson, was one of its inaugural passengers.

Prior to this, such testing had taken place only in closed, segregated areas in Canada. But the city, which has partnered with Blackberry QNX and its Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Centre, believes it now has the facilities and technology in place to continue to test driverless cars on public streets.

Ottawa boasts an autonomous vehicle ‘ecosystem’ of over 70 companies contributing their expertise to connected cars and autonomous vehicles. More than 40 of these are located along the test route. Drawing on this local expertise, the city hopes to become a Centre of Excellence for Autonomous Vehicles.

“Ottawa has established itself as an innovative and smart city, is home to a diverse technology hub, and has the expertise, new technology and talent needed to spark autonomous vehicle innovation,” said Watson.

During the test, Blackberry’s autonomous drive concept car set out on a loop of the test area in the city’s Kanata North Technology Park. The infrastructure along the test route has been optimised for autonomous vehicles, with Dedicated Short Range Communication transmitters at traffic lights and street lines repainted throughout.

“Anybody who has driven in Ottawa in February knows that no matter who is behind the wheel, driving isn’t easy when it comes to ice, sleet and snow,” said John Wall, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Blackberry QNX.

“We believe these conditions coupled with the City’s commitment to supporting research and development from BlackBerry and its partners, makes Ottawa a fantastic place to advance autonomous vehicle technology.”