QNX joins self-driving car pilot project

Self-driving vehicles are hitting Ontario streets, after the province became the first in Canada to open a pilot project to test the automated vehicles on public roads.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced the program's first three participants Monday, saying they will be working with different levels of automation.

"We are working towards full automation," he said.

"I think everyone here can see a world in which that will one day be the reality, but the Ministry of Transportation's primary responsibility, in addition to trying to enable positive outcomes with this kind of technology, is also road safety."

The University of Waterloo's Centre for Automotive Research will test a Lincoln MKZ, auto manufacturer the Erwin Hymer Group will test a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van and QNX, a software subsidiary of BlackBerry, will test a 2017 Lincoln.

QNX Software Systems is the leader of Ottawa’s automotive software industry.

The developer of automobile clusters, telematics and infotainment OS became a BlackBerry subsidiary in 2010 and now acts as the Waterloo giant’s automotive arm. QNX reached a milestone this summer with its acoustics software shipping in more than 50 million systems across 20 automakers, and the release of a new platform for instrument clusters.

“We see the role of QNX as providing a safe and secure platform and all the necessary plumbing to connect these systems together,” says John Wall, vice-president of engineering and services.

The systems, he says, need to come together to form a world of self-driving cars.

Under the pilot project, a driver with the appropriate licence must remain in the driver's seat at all times to monitor its operation and must follow the rules of the road.

The pilot is set to run for 10 years.

Del Duca said the project gives Ontario "the opportunity to be a world leader in automated technology."

"Frankly, there's excitement in every corner of the province about the fact that we are not only embracing this technology, but in the Canadian context we're leading on it," he said. "I think that the possibilities are limitless at this point."

– With files from Craig Lord