Route connecting Oxford County and eight area municipalities has been presented to council as part of a testing corridor between Windsor and Ottawa

By Chris Funston, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

An autonomous vehicle is seen on the test track near Lorne Avenue and Romeo Street in Stratford. (Terry Bridge, Beacon Herald)

An autonomous vehicle is seen on the test track near Lorne Avenue and Romeo Street in Stratford. (Terry Bridge, Beacon Herald)

Driverless vehicles may soon be taking over Oxford County streets.

County staff have developed a draft for an autonomous vehicle network on county roads. The proposed routes provide a loop within Oxford County that connects to eight area municipalities, as well as to provincial highways and neighbouring jurisdictions.

Oxford County was approached by the Ontario Good Roads Association to be a part of the pilot testing, with the ultimate vision of having a continuous network between Windsor and Ottawa.

Frank Gross, Oxford County’s manager of transportation, said the proposed route could change, as the county will share the plan with area municipalities for their comments and concerns.

The vehicles will be tested much like any regular car. They will be driven on various types of roads, including rural highways, gravel roads, urban streets, and other less-travelled roads.

“The county is going to reach out to rural municipalities to identify routes to connect to a proposed county network to have a full range of different road conditions,” he said. “The idea is to have connectivity with various conditions of roads that get tested.”

The driverless – or self-driving – vehicles are capable of detecting the surrounding environment using artificial intelligence, sensors and GPS co-ordinates, and have the potential to help improve fuel efficiency, as well as reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and driver distraction. The cars being used for testing may be operated with a driver, but don’t be surprised if you see some being tested without.

“It depends on the manufacturer and what their automated system is designed for. there’s a possibility there may be vehicles without occupants, but they’d be monitored by a remote system or followed by a pilot vehicle,” said Gross.

The finalized route will be brought back to council after it has been discussed and developed with area municipalities and the Ontario Good Roads Association.