Drivers in Ontario may soon spot some self-driving cars on the road while going home from work, as the city's Ministry of Transportation announced Tuesday that it will begin testing the technology at the beginning of 2016.
The pilot project will begin on Jan. 1 and take place on provincial roads, Ontario's Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said in a speech at the University of Waterloo, according to CTV News. The self-driving cars will not be restricted as to where they can travel, as they will be allowed to go anywhere from Toronto's busy Highway 401 to less congested, residents roads.
The program will come with certain rules, such as the need for the vehicles to be registered and have an insurance policy worth $5 million. Those who run the project must also report crashes within 10 days. Del Duca said that the cars will have someone behind the wheel during tests in case the vehicles run into any problems, adding that the human operator will be held responsible for any crash that takes place.
"Significant work has been done to ensure that our province's road safety will not be compromised," Del Duca said.
The project will last for 10 years, and Ontario's Ministry of Transportation (MTO) will be able to change and extend it if new technology is developed along the way, CBC News reported. Participants, who must apply to join the tests, will only include companies that manufactured the car, technology firms, academic or research institutions, and manufacturers of automated vehicle parts.
Experts say that the project will give Ontario a chance to improve its road safety and ability to attract top researchers, and that the province's economy will also see benefits. Brad Duguid, Ontario's minister of economy development, employment and infrastructure, said that the "groundbreaking" pilot will put the province at the forefront of innovation.
"We are now going to be able to test these vehicles in real-life circumstances, take them on roads and highways," Duguid said.
Top automakers that are currently working on self-driving cars include Toyota, GM, Ford, Audi and Tesla, the Toronto Star reported. Autonomous vehicles have also caught the attention of Google and other major tech companies.
Canada joins the U.S. and areas in Europe and Asia as those that have started to experiment with self-driving cars on their roads, CBC News noted. States that have passed legislation to allow for autonomous vehicle testing include California, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan and Nevada.