TORONTO, July 6 (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 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 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.
Honda Motor Co Ltd, which does research on autonomous vehicles in the United States, said it had no plans to participate.
Canadian auto parts supplier Magna International Inc said that in most cases it is testing self-driving car technology on closed circuits.
General Motors Co said in June it would expand its Canadian engineering base to add 700 jobs in Ontario as it boosts research spending on connected and driverless cars. It did not immediately respond to questions on whether will participate in Ontario’s program.
A spokesman for Google, which has agreed to work with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to build a fleet of 100 self-driving minivans, said the company is not participating in Ontario’s program, though he said the province was taking the right steps. Chrysler declined to comment. (Editing by Steve Orlofsky)