It's official: US autonomous vehicle testing has gone international!
On Monday 1 August 2017, a Cadillac ATS and a Chrysler 300 arrived at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars after a 300 mile trip across US and Canadian roads, including a drive through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel and over the Blue Water Bridge.
Most of the trip was undertaken without a driver touching the wheel, accelerator or brake pedal.
The vehicles were outfitted with Level 3 autonomous vehicle technology from Magna International and Continental.
After the vehicles had arrived safely, representatives from the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation signed a memorandum of understanding to "promote and foster the growth of connected and autonomous technology testing and deployment" between the US and Canada.
The cross-border self-driving vehicle drive it believed to be the first of its kind!
"This is a really significant day, and it cements the fact that this is where innovation happens," Kirk Steudle, director of MDOT, said.
According to Canada's minister of innovation, science and economic development, Navdeep Bains, "Today's demonstration is an important example of how our ongoing cross-border cooperation is advancing connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. Our government is committed to creating new good middle-class jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. By continuing to work the United States, we will equip our citizens with the skills they need to design and build the cars of the future on both sides of the border."
There were challenges on Monday's drive, including navigating through an international underwater tunnel with limited GPS service. The Blue Water Bridge was also an interesting adventure.
"It's a big chunk of steel," Steudle said. "All of those lidar and radar sensors get interferences from all that steel. It's very challenging from a technology perspective."
However, representatives from two automotive suppliers said the drive helped validate technology they have been working on for years. It has also helped them learn what types of technology they'll need in the future to navigate through unique situations, like international border stops.
During the border crossings, the drivers were in control of the cars. But, other than that, the trip was virtually hands-free along the state's highways.
President of Continental North America, Jeff Klei, said his company has been testing robot cars on public roads for more than five years worldwide.
"The engineering teams are spread across locations in the US, Europe, China and Japan to ensure driving and safety functions can be easily adapted to the individual regions as one comprehensive team effort," he said in a statement.
Tom Toma, the global product manager at Magna Electronics, praised the multinational collaboration.
"With our commitment to innovation and ongoing work in helping define the future mobility landscape, our involvement is a natural fit and we are pleased to join with our partners in this hands-free road trip."
Michigan and Ontario have taken steps to ensure the Great Lakes region remains competitive as the automotive landscape evolved. In 2016, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a package of bills enabling automated vehicles to operate on roads across the state.
That year, Ontario became the first province to set a regulatory framework to permit testing of automated vehicles, making it the only province to have an automated vehicle pilot program in Canada.
This event is a hugely significant milestone for the cars of the future!