A Google self-driving car on exhibit at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

Toronto, Ontario -- November 13, 2016 -- This week in automated vehicles (AVs), we look at how AVs are impacting urban planning, changes insurers will have to make to coverage, and how Canada lags behind when it comes to spending on AV development.

- A press release from the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) commented on some of the emerging issues around automated vehicles (AVs). The RCCAO is a “labour-management construction alliance has advocates for infrastructure investment.”

The organization warns that “Four billion automated vehicles will be registered to drive worldwide by 2050 if current ownership trends continue ... That means Ontario needs to aggressively prepare for more traffic congestion, new transportation options and a shift in the role of car ownership." Among the report's key points: “With 100,000 people moving to the GTHA (Greater Toronto Hamilton Area - Ed.) every year, congestion initially will worsen when AVs are introduced, competing for space on Ontario roads with today's everyday, driver-controlled vehicles but will steadily improve through 2030.”

The report notes that eventually, “Each fully automated vehicle eventually will replace at least four non-automated vehicles (what you're driving now). As AVs roll out, the relationship between people and cars will change: more will become riders, fewer will be owners.” The result is that, “In the 2020-2035 period, semi-automated vehicles will account for a much larger portion of the initial automated market...Based on GTHA population growth, congestion will get worse as desirable, semi-automated vehicles encourage outward urban growth, leading to longer commutes and higher parking demand.” After that, however, “....from the mid-2030s onward, fully automated vehicles could begin to transform Ontario's transportation system as fewer people would need to own a vehicle. If this happens, less parking will be needed and traffic will ease."

- An article on Tech Crunch notes that, as a result of “consumer hesitation and other legal barriers, it may take decades before self-driving cars are fully adopted.” As a result, there will likely be a more immediate, “...transitional period that insurers will need to plan for — a period where both self-driving vehicles and human-driven vehicles are on the road.” In this transitional period, “...there may be accidents involving that 'human element' as the public adapts to the technology. Insurers will have to cover these types of collisions ... in the short term. In the future, there also will be new risks to insure, such as sensor damage, satellite failure and other new technology.”

The article goes on to suggest that, “Perhaps, insurance will take on a no-fault form, in which neither party is at fault, and each car owner’s insurance covers their own vehicle. Or insurance could become similar to utility cost with a premium cost based on mileage or usage. There also may be risks involving driverless-car hacks and cybersecurity. Will insurers cover cybersecurity issues or will the manufacturer?”

The report notes that insurers, “...will have to react to this paradigm shift sooner rather than later. Comprehensive coverage for fires, animals, floods, theft, earthquakes and vandalism will still be necessary, and that type of insurance will not need to change very much, except for replacement cost adjustments.”

- Barrie Kirk, the head of the Canadian Automated Vehicle Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE), has released the organization's latest newsletter. Among the announcements: The Federal Minister of Transport has announced a Canadian Smart Cities Challenge that includes AVs and connected vehicles (CVs). In Ottawa, city councillor Marianne Wilkinson introduced a motion on AVs, “ ... moving the City towards an AV software Centre of Excellence and AV testing in the city ... The motion was passed by Council.” As well, The City of Toronto has, “... appointed a person full-time on the AV file -- a first for any municipality in Canada.” In Winnipeg, Councillor Matt Allard authored a motion to, “... examine the implications for the City of Winnipeg for land use planning, transportation planning, and other areas, based on the imminent arrival of self driving vehicles on the streets of Winnipeg.” Edmonton has also been busy on the AV file. According to Kirk, “A discussion has started in Edmonton on the relative roles of AVs and transit, including the impact on the new LRT.”

- In the city of Edmonton it seems a conversation about AVs has broken out. A report in the Edmonton Journal focused on the idea that a new LRT line being built in that city may not be necessary in a post-AV world.

“It’s a question I continue to struggle with,” Coun. Andrew Knack, was quoted as saying. Knack has been lobbying to extend the Valley Line LRT in that city. But as the author of the report notes city councillors recently debated a consultant's report that suggested, “One of the first applications for self-driving technology may be dual-mode buses....where a bus could be manually driven around a neighbourhood, then follow in fully automated mode behind a lead bus to head downtown....That would free up drivers and increase service, making bus-rapid transit a more flexible and adaptable option than LRT. It would be a train on wheels.”

A report for the city on AVs found that, “... automated vehicles could increase urban sprawl and traffic congestion if private driverless vehicles increase the amount of time people are willing to spend commuting ... [AVs] could decrease sprawl and congestion if transit providers adopt the technology first and use it to greatly improve service, or if cities charge private drivers for the use of the road...Fully automated vehicles could increase traffic safety, since 75 to 95 per cent of crashes are due to human error, said the report.”

- In Michigan, home of the domestic OEMs, a slew of bills related to AVs are crossing the governor's desk. According to a report on Michigan Live, “Bills allowing autonomous vehicles to cruise the streets hands-off and human-free are headed to the governor ...” One specific bill headed to the Michigan Senate ensures that would exampt any, “... facility that repaired an autonomous vehicle according to manufacturer specification from product liability lawsuits.” That bill passed the House in a vote of 104 to 3.

- A report on Carscoops notes that Google patented an, “... emergency vehicle detection system meant to work together with their self-driving tech.” According to online publication CNET, the patent is for a system, “... said to recognize unique flashing patterns from emergency lights, which in turn tell the self-driving car that a certain action needs to be taken. This action would usually involve simply pulling over and stopping until the emergency vehicle has passed.”

- Robin Chase, one of the co-founders of ride-sharing service Zipcar, has become an advisor to the US government on integrating new technology into transportation. According to a report on Metro Ottawa, “She sees two futures for automated vehicles. One has society predicting and preparing for wide-sweeping social change, with car-sharing instead of people owning their own vehicles. The other vision is us trying to integrate driverless cars into our current systems resulting in cities clogged by automated vehicle slaves that are cheaper to keep on the road than to park.” Barrie Kirk, head of CAVCOE, was quoted in the same report, suggesting that, Canada is “... way behind the other six countries in the G7 in terms of its preparation for (automated vehicles).” Whereas the United Kingdom has spent £100 million on research and development of automated vehicles, and the United States has spent $4 billion, “Ontario, meanwhile, has spent only $3 million – “a drop in the ocean,” according to Kirk.


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