Ontario to Allow Testing of Self-Driving Cars: An Update for Aspiring Auto Technicians

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Are you interested in pursuing auto technology training? With the right certification, you’ll be part of the future of auto technology. And in that future, you might see cars rolling into your shop with nobody in their driver’s seats.

Vehicles that drive themselves through automated computer systems (essentially cars that are artificially-intelligent) are getting ready to hit the streets in neighbourhoods closer than you might think. Starting January 1, self-driving cars are going to begin being tested on Ontario roads. This makes Ontario the first Canadian province to allow road tests of automated vehicles, according to Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca.

Read on to learn more about self-driving cars, and how their technology might impact your future auto tech career.

Ontario Officials Put Safety First

Industry experts predict that once the driverless technology is perfected, drivers can (legally) work on their laptops, video-chat friends, or even sleep while they’re behind the wheel of their personal vehicles.

If this sounds like a safety concern to you—you’re not alone. Industry skeptics and consumer watchdogs are concerned that the cars wouldn’t know what to do when faced with a surprise incident, like a child running onto the road, or even computer-hacker interference.

But the testing of these driverless cars will only be done with a human operator present behind each steering wheel, who can take over in case any problems arise.

‘Driverless’ cars will be permitted on Ontario highways as long as their drivers are on-hand.
‘Driverless’ cars will be permitted on Ontario highways as long as their drivers are on-hand.

“We intend to be leaders in this disruptive technology,” says Minister of Economic Development Brad Duguid, endorsing the new and safe Waterloo, Ontario testing project. As it stands, only the states of Nevada, California, and Michigan have laws that allow for autonomous car testing on roads.

How Does Self-Driving Auto Technology Work?

If you’re interested in mechanics, you’ll want to hear about the state-of-the-art auto technology making driverless vehicles possible.

Essentially, automated cars, like the ones being developed for testing in Waterloo, are all about detecting their surrounding environment with sensors, global positioning systems and “learning algorithm software” that lets them compute that information and use it to apply safe speeds, brake, make turns, and more.

Along with GPS and sensors, the vehicles also have “laser illuminating detection and ranging” (LIDAR), radar, and high-powered cameras that scan and identify signage, pedestrians and cyclists near the car. This information is fed into software that the cars use to plan their actions and anticipate the movements of vehicles and objects around them.

Canadian Auto Technology Students Are Leading the Way

Driverless vehicle technology has been around for years now, only just beginning to be seen on the commercial market. Major cities in Brazil, India, China, and Spain even offer autonomous streetcars as part of their public transit systems. But it’s two Waterloo students who brought the technology to Ontario.

A driverless streetcar in Leon, Spain can carry up to 10 passengers and travel up to 40km/h.
A driverless streetcar in Leon, Spain can carry up to 10 passengers and travel up to 40km/h.

Michael Skupien and Alex Rodrigues studied auto technology together and started a company, Varden Labs, which focuses on self-driving vehicles. They achieved a Canadian first in August when their autonomous golf cart successfully drove itself for 10 minutes around a Waterloo university campus.

Industry leaders were pleased to invest in the students’ project, saying automated and “connected-vehicle technologies” can improve fuel efficiency and reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and driver distraction.

The right automotive technology program will provide you with knowledge in everything from wheel alignment theory to welding and electrical fundamentals to computer control system maintenance. With this training, nothing can stop you from earning secure, lucrative employment and making your mark on the industry.

Would you like to have a hand in testing self-driving vehicles one day?

Visit ATC to learn more about our automotive technology training program, or to speak with an advisor.


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