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Autonomous cars to take self-driving trips across U.S.-Canada border

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WINDSOR, Ont. – Two autonomous vehicles owned by a pair of global automotive suppliers will cross an international border between Canada and the United States on Monday, to test automated driving technology in a variety of settings.

The drive will also highlight a new memorandum of understanding between Ontario and Michigan, which, together, will help develop more autonomous vehicle technology and testing.

The vehicles, owned by Magna International and Continental, will start their journey in southeast Michigan, and include a trip through the Detroit Windsor Tunnel that connects the two cities, and then across the Bluewater Bridge, which connects Sarnia, Ont., and Port Huron. They will then travel about 500 kilometres to their final destination, Traverse City.

In a joint statement, the two suppliers, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Michigan Department of Transportation call it “the first cross-border demonstration of its kind.”

MDOT director Kirk T. Steudle called it an “unprecedented collaboration between two nations and private industry.”

The two departments of transportation invited the suppliers to demonstrate their respective technologies as a way to highlight a new memorandum of understanding the departments will sign today. Under terms of the memorandum, the province and state agree to “further promote and foster growth of connected and autonomous technology testing and deployment, supporting both Michigan and Ontario’s economic interests and technological advancements by enabling job-creating growth for both jurisdictions.”

Cohesive partnership

“Today’s test drive is a great example of the continued collaboration and innovation between Ontario and Michigan,” Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca said in a statement. This new memorandum of understanding and our recent commitment of $80 million for an Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network signify the importance of a strong, cohesive partnership and continued investment in the development of AV/CV technologies and the mobility sector.”

Each supplier will be testing some of its own technology used to make Level 3 autonomous driving possible. Level 3 autonomous driving still requires a driver be at the wheel of the vehicle, ready to take control at a moment’s notice.

Through Continental’s own Cruising Chauffeur function, the two vehicles will be able to take over driving tasks on various roadways in accordance with traffic regulations. Once Cruising Chauffeur is activated, data analyzed in a central control unit called Assisted and Automated Driving Control Unit (ADCU) is used to generate a 360-degree model of the vehicle’s surroundings.

Technology test

In combination with a high-resolution map, the system recognizes all moving and static objects, as well as the layout of the roadway ahead. The drive will demonstrate how the vehicles’ multiple camera, radar and LiDAR sensors will interact while being driven underwater through the concrete Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and across the steel Blue Water Bridge.

Continental confirmed to Automotive News back in May that it was conducting road tests in Ontario and housing the vehicles in their garage in Auburn Hills, Mich.

“Continental has been testing automated driving on public roads for more than five years and our approach is a global initiative. The engineering teams are spread across locations in the U.S., Europe, China and Japan to ensure driving and safety functions can be easily adapted to the individual regions as one comprehensive team effort,” Jeff Klei, President, Continental North America, said in a statement.

Regional Competitiveness

Both Michigan and Ontario have taken steps to ensure the region remains competitive as the automotive landscape evolves. In 2016, Mich. Gov. Rick Snyder signed a package of bills enabling automated vehicles to operate on roads across the state. That same 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.

“The deep integration of the Great Lakes Automotive cluster helps foster industry-leading innovation and allows companies on both sides of the border to compete around the globe,” Ontario Minister of Economic Development Brad Duguid said in a statement.

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