Starting on January 1st, Ontario will become the first province in Canada to open its roads to testing of automated vehicles, according to a recent report (via CBC). The province will allow testing of self-driving cars (Google has been a pioneer in the space with both its Lexus models and its smaller, prototype EVs), as well as “related technologies,” starting on January 1st 2016…

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“For Ontario, the benefits of being part of automated vehicle innovation are clear,” said Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca in a speech at the University of Waterloo earlier this week. “In order to compete, Ontario needs to be consistent with the approach of U.S. jurisdictions.”

Brad Duguid, the province’s minister of economic development, agreed: “We intend to be leaders in this disruptive technology,” he said.

Ontario is also giving an additional $500,000 to the Ontario Centres of Excellence Connected Vehicle/Automated Vehicle Program, a program that “brings academic institutions and business together to promote and encourage innovative transportation technology,” according to the official Ontario newsroom. This is in addition to the $2.45 million in funding provided already.

Google has been testing its self-driving cars in both Silicon Valley and, more recently, Austin, Texas. According to the latest Google self-driving car monthly report, there are currently 48 of Google’s self-driving cars on the road in the United States. 14 of these vehicles are in Austin, and 34 of them are being tested in Google’s hometown. Maybe Ontario will be the next obvious candidate.

In a similar vein, Tesla just yesterday launched version 7.0 of its car software, being pushed out today to the Tesla Model S owners. This update brings several new “Autopilot” features, including Automatic Emergency Steering and Side Collision Warning, “Autosteer” (Beta), Auto lane changing and “Autopark”. Unlike Google’s self-driving vehicles, however, this system leaves all responsibility with the driver — and Tesla even suggests that drivers keep their hands on the wheel.

Tesla — which only produces electric vehicles — does expect to have a fully autonomous vehicle within a couple years, although that vehicle will likely not have a 600 mile range contrary to many reports that have misquoted Elon Musk.

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