A little town west of Toronto is doing big things

A little town west of Toronto is doing big things

How Stratford became a hub for self-driving cars

Photograph by iStock

Stratford, the sleepy Ontario hamlet known for staging Shakespeare and rearing Justin Bieber, has quietly transformed itself into a high-tech hub. Since 2009, the town has welcomed a satellite University of Waterloo campus for digital media, a start-up accelerator and an autonomous vehicle facility from the semiconductor company Renesas, which will be up and running by October.

Waterloo’s Stratford campus for digital media

When the province earmarked $80 million to research self-driving cars, it made Stratford ground zero. Over the next year or two, researchers will test cars donated by manufacturers like Toyota on a closed track before they hit the city’s streets. The cars, operated by backup drivers, won’t be chauffeuring theatregoers around quite yet, but the goal is to test the vehicles’ brains in all seasons to make sure they’re road ready.

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