BlackBerry among 3 organizations set to test self-driving cars on Ontario roads

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Canadian self-driving vehicle tests are about to kick off on Ontario public roads, with three groups approved to take part in a pilot licensing program that allows autonomous testing with a safety driver behind the wheel. BlackBerry is one of the three, along with the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Automotive Research and Erwin Hymer Group, a German maker of motorhomes and other leisure vehicles, reports The Globe and Mail.

The province is hoping to become a place automakers come to try out their self-driving tech, among a short but growing list of places around the world where testing those technologies is allowed on public roadways. The news of these three initial permit owners follows the provincial government’s announcement of their intent to allow such testing late last year.

Ontario’s advantage in providing a site for testing could lie in its variable weather; the province enjoys four full seasons, and provides a testbed for extreme conditions in its northern reaches. Other sites like Michigan, which is building a massive 335-acre test facility, offer similar road conditions, but Ontario could prove unique in just how intense it can get in terms of inclement weather systems – and any road in the province is fair game for testing under the rules put forward by the province.

Waterloo’s engineering talent, combined with Toronto’s academic expertise in machine learning and sizeable presence and investment by major automakers including GM, Toyota and others might also help Ontario press its advantage in the early days of autonomous driving development.

If you happen to live in the province (which I do), don’t expect to see autonomous test vehicles on the road just yet – the first trials from this initial group of participants are expected to kick off in early 2017.