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Ontario proposing driverless vehicle testing

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National Public Radio
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Chrysler started deploying driverless cars without backup drivers in November.

Ontario drivers could soon find themselves motoring along the highway next to a car with no one in the driver's seat.

The province's Liberal government is proposing to change the rules of its 10-year automated vehicle pilot project to allow for driverless testing.

Currently, the testing of fully autonomous vehicles is only allowed with a driver behind the wheel, but the government is seeking public comment on a proposal to scrap that requirement.

A Highway Traffic Act exemption would be introduced and participants would have to meet certain conditions, such as having a law enforcement interaction plan and vehicle communication with a remote operator.

The proposal also would allow the testing of platooning, which is when vehicles - particularly commercial ones - with smart technology communicate with and closely follow one another, something the government says may help lower fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

A spokesman for Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca says the proposed new rules would ensure road safety while also accommodating innovation.

The province is earmarking $80 million over five years to establish the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network project to support research and development, including a demonstration zone in Stratford.

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