There may be a race going on in the automotive and tech worlds to get self-driving cars on the road, but that race isn’t moving to Canada. As of Wednesday, not a single company had applied to take part in Ontario’s program to test autonomous vehicles on its streets, despite the fact that the program launched at the beginning of the year on January 1. While the recent death of a Tesla driver who had activated the car’s Autopilot feature might explain a cooling of interest, that certainly doesn’t explain the seven-month period preceding it.
Ontario announced last year that it would be the first Canadian province to green-light testing of autonomous vehicles, given its prominence in the country as the auto capital. The tests come many years after the first self-driving cars hit the road in the United States (the first prototypes were in action by 2009), and now, it seems that they may be further delayed.
Still, despite the lack of actual applications, a spokesman from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation said that the program had generated significant interest. But interest hasn’t translated into much (or any) action.
Of course, it’s not all that surprising that automakers haven’t been jumping at the opportunity to test in Ontario. Michigan, which serves as the U.S. automotive hub, is just a stone’s throw away from the Canadian province, and offers similar road conditions. And with multiple cities in the U.S also offering to test the technology, it makes sense that many in the industry are looking to stay local.
That said, there’s still hope for Canada and a driverless future. GM is growing its engineering base in Ontario, with hopes of bettering its smart and autonomous cars. So with a bit of patience, there just may come a time when self-driving cars are zipping through the highways of our northern neighbor.
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