Automated vehicles: Canada’s first AV zone, Tesla’s latest update and Google gets into the car business

Is Uber set to become a mass transit system? UberPool combines attributes of taxis and traditional bus service.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario — September 1, 2015 — The latest dispatch from the Canadian Automated Vehicle Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE) is out. Executive Director of CAVCOE, Barrie Kirk, has collected some of the important developments in the space over the last month.

– The biggest development: A company called Windmill Developments and CAVCOE are teaming up to conduct a feasibility study for an automated shuttle bus in a new development on former industrial lands between Ottawa Ontario and Gatineau Quebec. Zibi is the name of the new neighborhood under development. This could be the site of Canada’s first working automated vehicle zone.

– The rumours are true, apparently. Google is getting into the car business. According to a story in the UK’s Guardian newspaper Google has started up its own auto company. Google Auto LLC will be helmed by Chris Urmson.

– Tesla’s latest software update, version 7.0, will include auto-steering, lane change activated by the turn signal and parallel auto-parking.

– Is Uber becoming a mass transportation system? It’s not just the taxi industry that needs to worry. A new feature on the Uber app allows users to save money by agreeing to be picked up along certain easily accessed routes. That is, rather than hailing an Uber directly to your door, the UberPool map shows a green line on major artery streets. If you walk over to one of these routes you get a discount of $1 or more off the normal price. Having people show up at easily accessed points allows a more efficient service. Uber is also testing something called “Suggested Pickup Points.” Passengers can save time in terms of being picked up by heading to these locations, which make it easy for drivers to get to. According to Kirk, “We think this sounds a lot like the service that conventional transit will eventually evolve into – but being delivered much more rapidly by the private sector.”

– Here’s a serious game changer along the same idea: The Canberra Times reports that “Self-driving cars cheaper and better than light rail.” A data expert, Kent Fitch, has crunched some numbers and has found that, “based on conservative forecasts, a fleet of 23,000 cars could service 750,000 daily trips in Canberra at a cost of $3.80 for each average 13km peak hour journey. Fitch said the system could generate an annual surplus of about $75 million after capital financing and operational cost. “Cities the size of Canberra or larger could expect a ‘transport revolution’ within five years, leaving some infrastructure like the tram line out of date.”

– AVs are increasingly being used for real-life situations. Florida’s Department of Transportation will test autonomous truck mounted attenuators in work zones later this year. An attenuator is a safety feature which mounts on the rear of a truck and cushions the impact in the event of a vehicle crashing into it.

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