October 13, 2015 / 7:19 PM / in 4 years

Ontario to allow tests of self-driving cars on public roads

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario will be the first Canadian province to allow self-driving cars to be tested on its roads, the transport ministry said on Tuesday, announcing a pilot program to start next year.

The provincial government also announced C$500,000 ($380,000) in new funding for researchers and businesses working on connected vehicle and automated vehicle technology.

The province said nearly 100 companies and other organizations are already working in the area in Ontario.

“The pilot will enable those companies to conduct research and development in Ontario rather than in competing jurisdictions, as well as support opportunities to bring automated vehicles to market,” said the ministry in a release.

The program will launch Jan. 1, 2016, and information on how to participate should be available from late November, the ministry said.

Southern Ontario has long been home to a significant automotive industry, though in recent years the sector suffered heavy job losses as automakers built plants in cheaper jurisdictions, especially Mexico.

In April, General Motors Canada said it would hire more than 100 software and controls engineers for its engineering center in Oshawa, Ontario, as it expands to work on “the next major phase of automotive innovation and change.”

Alphabet Inc, formerly Google Inc, has been testing self-driving prototypes since 2009 and has said the technology needed to produce the cars should be ready by 2020.

Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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