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Stratford Autonomous Vehicle Program gets attention from Silicon Valley

Self-driving cars share space with Shakespeare at new Ontario test site

Self-driving cars in Canada have a new designated test site in the province of Ontario: Stratford, which is also home to the annual Stratford Festival, an event celebrating Shakespearean and other stage plays. Autonomous-vehicle testing in Stratford will provide a focal point for development done across six technology centers located at different points around the province before heading to the dramatic proving ground.

Stratford is relatively close to a number of Canada’s leading universities, including the University of Waterloo, where autonomous-vehicle development is already well underway. It’s also within easy reach of many automaker technology hubs located in the province, and close enough to hand for large tech companies with significant engineering centers in Canada, including Google, which has a Waterloo engineering office.

The full details of Stratford’s testing facilities, including whether they will involve open trials on public roads, remain to be seen. The first self-driving street tests started taking place in Ontario last November under a pilot project in which a small group of select technology research projects were greenlighted to test their tech.

Stratford will benefit from public funding as part of the deal, and the town sees the opportunity as a chance to encourage more industry to grow up in the area. The city has been recognized as a “smart city,” with a focus on digital technology development in recent years.

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