Self-driving cars to start taking tunnel to Detroit
Dilkens announces autonomous vehicle joint initiative between border cities
The Windsor-Detroit tunnel could become the best place on the continent to test the border-crossing abilities of self-driving cars and trucks, according to a new initiative between the two cities.
On Friday, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens held a press conference at the tunnel’s Canadian plaza to announce plans to attract autonomous vehicle development to the crossing.
“There are lots of test sites around the world, working on important issues related to autonomous vehicles,” Dilkens said. “But no one in North America is working on cross-border autonomous vehicle testing like we are proposing today.”
For those who think driverless vehicles are more science fiction than reality — just wait until Monday morning, when the Ministry of Transportation will hold a local demonstration of autonomous cars on a cross-border route.
Starting on Windsor’s riverfront at 8 a.m., two advanced self-driving vehicles — a Chrysler and a Cadillac — will embark on an all-day trip that will take them across the Detroit River to culminate in Traverse City, Michigan.
Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, and federal Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, will be attending.
Dilkens said Monday’s demonstration won’t be the first time an autonomous vehicle has used the Windsor-Detroit tunnel: One took a controlled test run earlier this year, and another test occurred as recently as this past week.
“We’ve already started,” Dilkens said. “This is one thing that’s unique to us, that’s authentic to Windsor-Detroit — one area where we think we can make a significant difference in terms of the evolution of the technology.”
Mark de la Vergne, the City of Detroit’s chief of mobility innovation, and Peter Frise, former scientific director of the University of Windsor’s AUTO21 research network, were present at Friday’s news conference.
They agreed with Dilkens that crossing an international border is an advanced scenario in the realm of autonomous vehicle technology — ripe with unique challenges.
“That’s what this project is really about,” Frise said. “Making that leap from the research and design lab to on-the-road operation where it can affect the economy and improve the lives and safety of Canadians and Americans on both sides of the border, every day.”
Dilkens said the City of Windsor will be applying through Ontario’s Centres of Excellence program to be a part of the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network.
The network has a total of $80 million in funding to distribute over a five-year period. The City of Windsor is hoping to secure $3 million on an annual basis.
“We think that’s a reasonable amount,” Dilkens said. “The technology is evolving and advancing every single day. We’re going to have to be able to keep up with the times.”
Dilkens said his office and the Detroit mayor’s office have also been communicating with companies involved in autonomous vehicle development, such as QNX.
“There is great interest,” Dilkens promised.
No one in North America is working on cross-border autonomous vehicle testing like we are proposing today
Mayor Drew Dilkens, left, was joined by Peter Frise from the University of Windsor for a news conference at the entrance to the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Friday to announce the proposed testing of self-driving cars at the border crossing, the first testing of its kind on autonomous vehicles.