The increasing use of smart technologies into our daily lives has now moved into the sphere of the autonomous vehicle, more commonly referred to as a driverless car. For those of you unfamiliar with what an autonomous vehicle is, it is defined as any type of vehicle that is capable of driving without human intervention on most or all road conditions. With the Government of Ontario, allowing companies to road test autonomous vehicles, from January 1st, 2016, these smart vehicles have become more of a reality than ever before. What does this really mean about the future of how we will use our roads?
As automakers and technological companies work towards developing fully automated vehicles, widespread adoptions of these vehicles are predicted to arrive on city streets. This couldn’t happen at a better time since various projections estimate that driverless vehicles could be available in significant numbers as early as 2020, and constitute as much as 15% of vehicles on roads by 2030. Research and investments to autonomous vehicles are being made in both public and private transit vehicles.
Although, the province of Ontario has taken a proactive stance by allowing for the testing of these vehicles, there have been no formal applications put forward to the Ministry of Transportation to test autonomous vehicles in Canadian jurisdictions. Canadian cities like Toronto, still await test data from the development of public and private autonomous transit vehicles.
There are uncertainties regarding the passenger use and safety of autonomous vehicles:
Potential benefits of autonomous vehicles:
It is important to note that policies currently in place do not address the use of automated vehicles on Canadian roads. All tiers of government, including both the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario, will have to get ahead of the automated vehicle industry prior to its introduction onto our roads. The Province has established a Connected Vehicle/Autonomous Vehicle (CVAV) Program worth $1 million to encourage business and academic institutions to develop and commercialize innovations in connected and autonomous vehicle technologies with strong profit orientated potential.
Autonomous cars will have a profound impact on how people move in and around cities. Major Canadian cities like Toronto have made recommendations to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee for the establishment of a regulatory framework. The current status has no position as research and networking with other cities continues.
Whether one is drives or uses public transportation, citizens of Toronto will be impacted by autonomous vehicles in one way or another. In 2016 The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) reported an all-time record of 538.1 million rides throughout the city. The TTC is contemplating the future of autonomous vehicles to possibly replace the existing bus fleet. The public transit vehicle can drive itself but operates with a human driver on board in case intervention is needed. The positive impacts would allow the TTC and riders to potentially save money, increase schedule reliability, reduce stress for operators and cut down on collisions. However, there are concerns about upfront costs impacting citizens and customer service challenges. There is also the question of what would happen in the event of a crash; would the driver or vehicle be responsible? The incorporation of autonomous vehicles is not one to be taken likely.
Cities like Toronto have predicted that automated and autonomous vehicles (AVs) will have a noticeable presence in the transportation system within the next 5-10 years. In 2016 a survey was conducted to see if GTHA residents are ready for autonomous vehicles. The following considerations were made.
There is still no clear consensus of how automated vehicles will impact transportation. But many considerations have to be made regarding mobility and the built environment. Autonomous vehicles will have a great impact on the design of city streets and in depth considerations will need to be made to improve the safety of vulnerable road users.
The TTC is contemplating the future of autonomous vehicles to possibly replace the existing bus fleet.
You can find more information about autonomous vehicles here: University of Toronto- Autonomous Vehicles: https://www.utoronto.ca/news/tags/autonomous-vehicles
Nicole Nomsa Moyo is currently doing an internship with the Canadian Urban Institute as a Research Planner. She holds a Professional Master of Architecture degree from Carleton University. She is interested in innovative research and design solutions that empower and solve international community needs for social and urban development. Learn more about Nicole and connect with her here www.nnmoyo.com
Champa Maduranayagam, is in her final year of studying Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University. She graduated with an Honour’s Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto, in Women and Gender Studies and Equity Studies. She has also completed a post-graduate certificate in Aboriginal Addictions Counselling, from Calgary, Alberta. She is currently developing a startup around Emergency Response Planning, with the aid of the Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University. Connect with her on Twitter @ChampaMadu