By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario – April 9, 2018 — In this week’s AV Report: AV conferences in Ottawa and Edmonton, the University of Waterloo partners with Chinese universities on AV tech, Globe and Mail editorial writers tackle self-driving cars and much, much more!
There is a crowded spring schedule in terms of conferences in this country concerning automated vehicles. This past week an AV conference was held in Ottawa. Speakers discussed technology, transportation trends, government policy and insurance industry planning. A local Ottawa paper covered the event. Thenewspaper quoted a UK businessman who was in town to establish a North American headquarter for his company, which is testing driverless pods. “We came here last year and we were really surprised with what’s going on here in Ottawa,” the executive is quoted as saying. The company designs and builds the Pod Zero, an autonomous vehicle that seats four passengers and can transport them short distances within pedestrian areas, at an average speed of 10 km/h. “The collection of very, very high-tech companies working in our field, there’s just a critical mass of those now in Ottawa,” said the executive. “We thought, we need to be a part of that, that makes good sense for collaborations in the future, so it was a natural thing… We’re looking for research and development partners. For instance, we don’t have a lot of snow in the U.K., and you guys have a lot of snow and some very cold temperatures, so that would be a really nice project to see how we make this pod applicable in Ottawa.” The company has already enlisted Carleton University to do automated vehicle trials on campus. Mike Tremblay, president and CEO of Invest Ottawa, was quoted as saying a cluster of autonomous vehicle companies in Kanata North is are considering building a private test track for Avs. bit.ly/2EqZDqm
Another AV conference will take place in Edmonton, June 6th and 7th. The conference, Automated Vehicles 2018: Planning for Urban and Rural Transitions, will taketake place at the Shaw Conference Centre. That city’s newspaper ran a story this week noting the city council is working towards starting automated vehicle testing in Edmonton at the beginning of 2019. According to the report, “A regulatory provincial framework on how to operate automated vehicles safely and effectively is expected to be completed in June. For now, testing must be carried out on private land and closed public roads.” Councilor Andrew Knack brought up the subject of AVs during a December council meeting and asked for a report on the matter. He wants the provincial government to relax testing rules. Knack was quoted as saying,“That’s part of what we wanted to see – the province to make some changes so we can start testing because this is dramatically shift a lot of what we do as a city and as a society… We’ve been wanting to do testing, but the rules are so strict right now that they really don’t make testing viable for anyone.” The city is developing a new reputation for tech. Google’s DeepMind opened its first research lab outside of the United Kingdom in Edmonton last year. The city was also the first to accept ridesharing apps like Uber in Canada according to the report. Councillor Knack wants Edmonton to be the winter city where tech companies test their self-driving projects. “Where I think obviously we have a unique challenge, but it also presents a unique opportunity, is our winter climate, and does this encourage companies who are doing this testing say, ‘we really need a northern city test bed,’ and I think that’s where Edmonton could really stand to play a role in this,” Knack was quoted as saying. The news report also noted that a company named Magnovate has, “… proposed an autonomous magnet train in place between downtown and Whyte Avenue or out to the airport. The company said magnetic trains and less expensive and more efficient than conventional trains.” The story also quoted Knack talking about how it is AVs will save lives. “I don’t think there’s even been any research to suggest that self-driving vehicles would be perfect. What I think the research shows is that it can react far quicker than you and I. They can process significantly more information in a shorter amount of time. A lot of the research suggests that it’s likely to be a 80 to 90 percent reduction in serious and injury-based collisions and fatalities,” Knack was quoted as saying. bit.ly/2H2pScc
Coming up in B.C. this year is an another AV-related event, Unmanned Canada 2018. According to organizers, “This event is Canada’s premiere Unmanned Systems Conference, covering Land, Sea and Air applications of unmanned vehicle systems.” This is interesting. The event promises an extensive program of technical presentations, B2B meetings and a full trade show floor for exhibitors. The event takes place October 30th and November 1st, 2018.
The big brains on the editorial board of the Globe and Mail felt the need to take on the subject of Avs this past week. The recent death of a homeless woman who was hit by an AV is pushing this subject into the mainstream. According to the editorial, “American roads are becoming less safe. More than 37,000 people were killed on American roads in 2016, up 5.6 percent from 2015, according to government data. The National Safety Council, a research and advocacy organization, estimates that the death toll was more than 40,000 in 2017… Experts who are skeptical about the unceasing forward march of technology say fatalities are rising because public officials have become so enamoured with the shiny new thing, self-driving cars, that they have taken their eyes off problems they could be solving today.” According to the editorial, rather than worry about AVs, governments could work toward making automatic braking systems a standard feature on all cars. “The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that there is a 42 percent reduction in rear-end crashes that cause injuries when this technology is installed on cars. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and other public interest groups asked the Transportation Department in 2015 to require that all new trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles have such systems, which have been around for years. The department accepted that petition but has yet to propose a rule. The government did reach a voluntary agreement with 20 auto makers to make automatic braking a standard feature on cars and light trucks by September 2022,” according to the editorial. tgam.ca/2EmVhA
Also in Canada last week Barrie Kirk, executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE), appeared before Parliament. He is reported to have said, “The government must act now when it comes to managing automation as it intersects with transportation… In total, there have been three and a half years of hearings, research, and reports. [It’s time] to put some action items in place.” Kirk went on to testify that the first step, “… is to follow the UK’s lead in developing a separate institution geared specifically towards research in AVs, titled the Canadian Automated Vehicles Institute (CAVI).” Said Kirk, “I propose that the Canadian AV institute be a joint policy unit of Transport Canada and the Department of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development.. It would be a focal point for those in government, industry, academia and internationally. It would help Canada to move to the forefront not only in the development but also the employment of autonomous vehicles,” said Kirk, appearing as a witness at the Transport Committee meeting.” David Ticoll, a fellow with the Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, also appeared at the hearing. He is quoted as saying, “The issue of governance and how this phenomenon is going to get driven in this country is a critical issue… Governments need mobility and municipal data to manage traffic and inform infrastructure investments. It’s necessary for transparent reporting of incidents, collisions, emissions, fuel efficiency, and road use… There’s a good chance that a handful of global mobility companies will dominate our streets, capture the data, and assert control over its use.” bit.ly/2GCPqNv
The University of Waterloo in Ontario announced this week that it had signed an agreement with both the Qingdao Academy of Intelligent Industries (QAII) and the State Key Laboratory for Management and Control of Complex Systems (SKL-MCCS). According to a news report, “Research will focus on everything from automated vehicle testing to deep learning in automated driving and applied artificial intelligence. A ‘shared research center’ for automated driving will be set up while faculty and graduate student exchanges are also in the pipeline. Additionally, Chinese start-ups could potentially set up research and development facilities in the Waterloo region. According to a press release, “Waterloo is committed to taking a global view on research and development and this partnership represents a significant step in our goal of advancing the world’s understanding and use of new technologies.” The Chinese institutions will provide one million Canadian dollars annually for five years, while Waterloo has committed to supplying $4 million to build an autonomous lab facility. Fei-Yue Wang, president of QAII and director of SKL-MCCS, was quoted as saying he was hopeful the collaboration would “lead to the world’s first PhD program specializing in intelligent vehicles and make Waterloo the hub of innovation and incubation in intelligent vehicles and technology