By Sam Houpt
London, Ontario – August 14, 2019 – While many members of the collision community may doubt that autonomous vehicles will soon be commonly seen on Canada's roads, the Canadian Government is already making preliminary investments in the infrastructure they will need.
The federal government has announced that it will be investing $2.4 million into S2e Technologies, an Ontario-based firm that develops technology for cities to allow for autonomous and electric vehicle use, to test the first-ever automatic ‘pick-up and parking’ system – a completely driverless valet service.
According to s2e CEO Milfred Hammerbacher, the St Jacobs-based company will be constructing eight four-story towers in London’s West 5 area. Each tower will act as a hub, storing about 10 to 12 self-driving electric cars. Residents will be able to use a smartphone app to request a community-shared autonomous vehicle to be dispatched to their location. After use, it will then return itself to a tower for charging.
“With this announcement today, we are pushing the envelope of what is possible,” Hammerbacher said. “Each step we take in building smart communities and imagining smart mobility brings us closer to the kind of sustainable development that will better the environment.”
The $2.4 million investment is boosted by s2e’s own $40 million commitment to the project, the majority of which is dedicated to the construction of the towers. West 5’s tower construction is estimated to begin in early 2020.
The automated valet service is designed as an effort to reduce the need for car ownership within the West 5 community. Ady Vyas, vice president of S2e, said that not only do they want to push towards greener energy, they also want to reconsider Canadians’ relationships with vehicle ownership.
"We know that we are at the cusp of a revolutionary change in mobility: the way we get around in our daily lives,” he said. “That means a radical re-think of our relationship with our vehicles and stepping away from the idea that every home will have a large garage, with multiple vehicles.”
Natural Resources Canada expects the operation to act as a controlled test for the technology but also to see the adaptability of transportation needs for a small-scale community like West 5. It is part of its ‘Green Infrastructure Program’ – an initiative to accelerate next-generation green energy infrastructure within the country.
The news comes a few months after a report by Electric Mobility Canada found that 93,091 electric vehicles being driven in Canada at the end of 2018.