In a first for Canada, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Steven Del Duca, announced today that the province approved Waterloo’s three-year autonomous vehicle research program, under its AV pilot program. The Waterloo team is using a Lincoln MKZ hybrid sedan nicknamed Autonomoose.

“This is a direction in automotive engineering innovation that are we are proud to lead in Canada, and we applaud the Government of Ontario for their foresight,” said Pearl Sullivan, dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Waterloo. “As Canada’s strongest research team in connected and autonomous vehicles, with engineering and computer science professors working in areas from embedded sensors, to advanced controls to artificial intelligence, we are very excited about this new frontier for piloting Waterloo innovations.”

Fully connected to the Internet and featuring powerful computers to process and analyze data in real time, the test car includes technologies such as radar, sonar and lidar, as well as both inertial and vision sensors. A researcher will always be behind the wheel and ready to assume control at all times. The vehicle currently operates with some degree of self-driving capabilities, combining features such as adaptive cruise control to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles without intervention by the driver.

“I am pleased to announce that the University of Waterloo is one of the first approved applicants of our Automated Pilot Vehicle program. As a result, Waterloo will be among the first eligible to operate an autonomous vehicle on a public roadway in Canada,” said Del Duca.

The goal of the research team, which includes nine professors working under the umbrella of the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR), is to progressively add more automated features. Specific aims of the Waterloo project include improving automated driving in challenging Canadian weather conditions, further optimizing fuel efficiency to reduce emissions, and designing new computer-based controls. The researchers will test the vehicle everywhere from city streets to divided highways as they add and fine-tune new capabilities.

“The ability to take this research work to the next level while safely testing on all kinds of roads in Ontario represents a significant leap forward in this field,” said Krzysztof Czarnecki, a lead researcher and professor in Waterloo’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Cheriton School of Computer Science. “We are very honoured to be part of this initiative and appreciate the province’s leadership in this exciting area of technology.”  

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Initial industry partners in the project include AutonomouStuff, vendor of automated driving research development vehicles, and NVIDIA, manufacturer of an AI computer system known as Drive PX.

BlackBerry QNX and Erwin Hymer Group, the Kitchener-based manufacturer of Roadtrek motorhomes, also received approval to test automated vehicles on Ontario roads under the pilot project.

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