TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan -- U.S. autonomous vehicle testing has gone international.
A Cadillac ATS and a Chrysler 300 on Monday rolled into the parking lot of the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa for the CAR Management Briefing Seminars after a 300-mile (483 km) trip across U.S. and Canadian roads, including a ride through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel and over the Blue Water Bridge. Much of the trip was undertaken without a driver touching the steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedal.
The vehicles were outfitted with Level 3 autonomous vehicle technology from Magna International and Continental.
Once the vehicles arrived at their destination, representatives from the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation signed a memorandum of understanding to “promote and foster growth of connected and autonomous technology testing and deployment” between the U.S. and Canada.
The cross-border autonomous vehicle drive is believed to be the first of its kind.
"This is really a significant day and it cements the fact that this is where innovation happens," Kirk Steudle, director of MDOT, said.
Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and economic development, said: “Today’s demonstration is an important example of how our ongoing cross-border cooperation is advancing connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. Our government is committed to creating new good middle-class jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. By continuing to work with the United States, we will equip our citizens with the skills they need to design and build the cars of the future on both sides of the border.”
Monday’s autonomous demonstration faced challenges along the drive, including navigating through an international underwater tunnel with limited GPS service. The Blue Water Bridge near Port Huron, Mich., was also an adventure.
“It’s a big chunk of steel,” Steudle said. “All of those lidar and radar sensors get interference from all that steel. It’s very challenging from a technology perspective.”
Representatives from the two automotive suppliers said the drive helped validate technology they have been working on for years. It also helped them learn what types of technology they’ll need in the future to navigate unique situations, like international border stops.
During Monday’s border crossings, the drivers were in control of the cars. But it was a virtually hands-free trip along the state’s highways.
Jeff Klei, president of Continental North America, said his company has been testing robot cars on public roads for more than five years across the globe.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Tom Toma, global product manager at Magna Electronics, praised the multinational collaboration.
“With our commitment to innovation and ongoing work in helping define the future mobility landscape, our involvement is a natural fit and we are pleased to join with our partners in this hands-free road trip.”
Michigan and Ontario have taken steps to ensure the Great Lakes region remains competitive as the automotive landscape evolves. In 2016, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a package of bills enabling automated vehicles to operate on roads across the state. That 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.