Ontario will be the first province in Canada to allow road tests of automated vehicles, according to Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca. 

"For Ontario, the benefits of being part of automated vehicle innovation are clear," said Del Duca in a speech at the University of Waterloo on Tuesday morning. "In order to compete, Ontario needs to be consistent with the approach of U.S. jursidictions."

The province will allow testing of self-driving cars, as well as related technologies, starting on Jan. 1 of the new year. The provincial government is also pledging an additional $500,000 to the Ontario Centres of Excellence Connected Vehicle/Automated Vehicle Program. That program pairs academic institutions with businesses to further transportation technology.

Del Duca was joined at the university by Brad Duguid, the province's minister of economic development, and local MPPs Daiene Vernile (Kitchener Centre) and Kathryn McGarry (Cambridge), as well as Feridun Hamdullahpur, the university's president.

"We intend to be leaders in this disruptive technology," Duguid said.

In the U.S., Nevada, California and Michigan currently have laws that allow for autonomous car testing on roads, while Virginia has designated just over 110 kilometres worth of roads in the northern part of the state for testing.  

Rules vary from state to state. In California, for example, manufacturers must apply for a permit to test autonomous cars, and those cars must have a human test driver. Ten companies, including Google, Tesla Motors, BMW and Nissan, have been approved for road testing in the state. 

Waterloo students work on golf cart

It's likely the province picked the University of Waterloo as the site of the announcement because the school is home to WAVELab, the Waterloo Autonomous Vehicles Laboratory, headed by Prof. Steven Waslander.

WAVELab works on both aerial and ground autonomous vehicles, and has partnered with local robotics companies, including Aeryon Labs and Clearpath Robotics. 

In addition to WAVE, two Waterloo students started a company, Varden Labs, that focuses on self-driving vehicles.

Michael Skupien and Alex Rodrigues say they achieved a Canadian first in August when their autonomous golf cart successfully drove itself for 10 minutes along Ring Road, the road that circles the boundary of the University of Waterloo campus.