Canada is celebrating a technological milestone after its first official self-driving car test on public roads last week. The street test was conducted in Ottawa's west end using technology developed by Blackberry.
The city of Ottawa announced a partnership with Blackberry's QNX team, the operating system arm of the company which is developing self-driving vehicle software. "With support from BlackBerry QNX and its Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Center and by working closely with all our partners, we are facilitating smart initiatives and research, and fuelling innovation and job creation in Ottawa," said the city's mayor, Jim Watson in a press release.
The test was not run in real-life conditions as the roads were closed during the demonstration. Still, this is an important first step toward seeing the widespread integration of self-driving vehicles. As we are seeing in other areas of the world where self-driving car experiments have been or are being held, there are plenty of hurdles that stand in the way of the technology becoming mainstream.
Other cities all around the world are also welcoming self-driving car testing. Baidu, the company described as the "Chinese Google," started test driving its cars on California roads. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has given more than 40 companies, including Uber, Apple, and Waymo permission to test vehicles in the state. Much like with Ottawa, this is a great first step but it is a far cry from the kind of legal structure we will need to allow for self-driving cars to enter and be successful in the public sphere.
To that end, a United States Senate committee recently voted unanimously to allow a bill to move forward which secures the future of self-driving cars in the country by allowing testing to commence unhindered by state governments. The bill, dubbed the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act, was passed by the House of Representatives and will soon be taken up by the Senate.
The timeline of when these autonomous vehicles will be available to the general public is not set in stone. However, as we continue to see legislation gaining support, there is the hope and likelihood that it will grow into the necessary framework which will provide the foundation this technology needs to thrive.