Canada's Ontario gets no applications for self-driving car plan

Wed Jul 6, 2016 4:16pm EDT
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By Ethan Lou

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario's program to allow testing of self-driving cars on public roads has not received any applications since it launched Jan. 1, the Canadian province's government said on Wednesday, as a recent U.S. accident increased scrutiny of the technology.

Ontario, home to nearly all of Canada's auto industry, said last year it would be the first province to allow testing of self-driving cars. Ontario's auto sector has struggled as investment shifted to cheaper jurisdictions, and the government has sought to attract higher paying research and development work.

But the province is a late-comer compared with parts of the United States, where Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O: Quote) subsidiary Google has been testing self-driving prototypes since 2009.

Debate about the safety of driverless cars heated up last week after driver of a Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O: Quote) car in autopilot mode was killed in a collision.

A spokesman from Ontario's Ministry of Transportation said the self-driving car program has a 10-year time frame and has received a lot of interest despite the lack of applications.

Ontario confirmed the lack of applications after Reuters learned about it through a freedom-of-information request.

The province said last year nearly 100 companies and other organizations were already working in the connected vehicle and automated vehicle industry in Ontario, and its driverless-car program would enable them to keep research local.

But some car companies with plants in Ontario are still favoring the United States.   Continued...

Visitors look at a self-driving car by Google displayed at the Viva Technology event in Paris, France, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier