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Autonomous cars are headed to Ontario

Welcome to the future, Canada. Effective January 1, 2016, autonomous cars will be legal to test on any public road in Ontario.

Google's self-driving car: Now with working lights! Google

Beginning January 1, 2016, the Canadian province of Ontario will be the first to allow self-driving cars to test alongside bleary-eyed commuters and teenagers with something to prove.

The announcement was made at the University of Waterloo, the home of the Waterloo Autonomous Vehicles Laboratory (WAVELab). Two WAVELab students are already operating a self-driving golf cart around campus, which would make it the first sans-pilot vehicle on Canadian roads. Sorry, Google et al, you're just a smidge late.

Ontario's announcement goes beyond small student projects, though. The province has also promised to give CAD$500,000 (directly converted, about $385,000, AU$530,000 or £250,000) to the Ontario Centres of Excellence Connected Vehicle/Automated Vehicle Program, which works with both businesses and academia to promote the future of autonomous tech.

The march towards autonomy is inevitable. As the technology improves and governments see the benefits, self-driving cars and trucks are beginning to appear on roads around the world. This week, Ontario joins a growing list of locales playing home to the first generation of autonomous cars.

Four US states -- Michigan, Nevada, Florida and California -- already permit self-driving cars on public roads. By the end of the year, Virginia and the District of Columbia should be joining in on the fun, too.