May 2019

AV Update

From the Editors
We read somewhere that you should never start anything with an apology. However, we have been known to break the occasional rule now and then, so we would like to apologize for this issue of AV Update being a few days late. We have been very busy on a number of things and this caused the delay.

May 2019 saw three very different and encouraging milestones in the Canadian CAV ecosystem. First, the L5 CAV test track in Ottawa was officially launched. A week later, Unmanned Systems Canada's Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) student competition was held at L5. Third, the web-site for the CAV Canada conference to be held in Ottawa in September is now live. Version 1 has new information -- and more details will be added in the weeks ahead.

All three of these important events are reported below.

Canadian AV News
Ottawa L5, the first integrated CAV test environment of its kind in North America, was officially launched on May 17, 2019. (In case you are wondering, the name L5 was chosen because that is the highest level in the hierarchy of autonomous vehicles)

Invest Ottawa, which manages the facility, reports that L5 offers world-class integrated testing grounds for the safe implementation of CAVs. On the site, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) testing, validation and demonstration of technologies can be conducted in Ottawa’s true four-season climate. The Ottawa L5 testing facilities are equipped with GPS (RTK), dedicated short range communications (DSRC), Wi-Fi, 4G/LTE and 5G telecommunications, traffic signals, various traffic signs, and bike lanes, making it the first integrated CAV test environment of its kind in North America. The 1,860 acre site is fenced, gated and has 16km of paved roads.

Key people from all three levels of government helped open the facility in a ceremony that attracted 300 attendees.  More information is here.


CAV Canada, Canada's largest conference dedicated to connected and autonomous vehicles will be held on September 9-10, 2019 in Ottawa. Details are on the conference website here.

Co-hosted by the Kanata North Business Association and Invest Ottawa in partnership with CAVCOE, this national conference will bring together hundreds of stakeholders from across Canada’s CAV ecosystem and around the world. With the worldwide economic impact of CAVs estimated to reach US$7 trillion by 2050, this event aims to help Canada capitalize on this global market opportunity and achieve greater CAV impact. Participants will acquire knowledge, connections and resources required to enable and accelerate the safe implementation of CAV technologies and solutions.  This includes top tier speakers; B2B and investor meetings; access to talent; a CAV Showcase; technology demonstrations at Ottawa L5 CAV Test Facilities; tours of CAV leaders in the Kanata North Tech Park, and many networking opportunities.

CAVCOE's Barrie Kirk is heavily involved in developing the conference program, which will have two tracks. One track is AV / CV technology research, development and testing. The other track is deployment topics including government policy, the impact on business plans, and socio-economic issues.

The conference is also an opportunity for stakeholders to increase their profile as a leader in CAV and create new opportunities.  A range of conference sponsorship opportunities are available; the details are here.

Unmanned Systems Canada (USC) held its first student Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) Competition at L5 one week after the official opening. The challenge was for university teams to develop a scale model of an automated snow plow and compete with other teams. Transport Canada sponsored the competition through its Program to Advance Connectivity and Automation in the Transportation System (ACATS). The winner was Carleton Autonomous Rovers, and second was the U of Ottawa OC Hotwheels.

Here is the winning snow plow in action with the judges in the background. (Yes....this was held in Ottawa in May, so we used mulch instead of snow -- it worked very well!)  The UGV Competition Chair was CAVCOE's Barrie Kirk.

On May 6, 2019, Winnipeg based NFI Group (formerly New Flyer Industries) announced the launch of its Autonomous Technology Program. This program includes development and deployment of technology for Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) and Automated Vehicles (AVs). NFI is North America's largest bus manufacturer specializing in the manufacturing of heavy-duty transit buses and motor coaches and the distribution of aftermarket parts. More information is on NFI’s site at this link

On May 8, 2019, GM Canada announced that it plans to invest $170 million and retain 300 (out of 2,600) employees at its Oshawa plant. Previously, GM had announced that the Oshawa plant will close by the end of 2019 with the loss of all jobs. The plan is to transform part of the property at the Oshawa plant into a test track for autonomous vehicles and advanced technology vehicles. Additionally, GM is planning to manufacture up to 50 aftermarket components such as doors, roofs, quarter paneling and trunks. More information is at this link

Radio-Canada has created an animated webpage to illustrate some of the ethical issues surrounding AVs. The animation is a play on the well-known ‘trolley problem’ where one has to make choices on who lives and who dies in the event of brake failure or unavoidable collision. The race to develop autonomous vehicles is underway here and elsewhere. In Ontario, driverless driving tests were approved for mixed traffic and autonomous shuttles were deployed in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.  The animation can be viewed at this link.

Sidewalk Labs (a Google affiliate) and their Toronto Waterfront project have been mired in controversy for some time.  One of the latest developments is the formation of an opposition citizen group called Block Sidewalk.  This group has aired its concerns regarding the lack of transparency in the way Toronto Waterfront had awarded the contract to Sidewalk Labs, to doubts about whether the firm has a proven track record in delivering such an ambitious project. More information is at this link.

International AV News

China is planning to build a new 100 km freeway which will have two lanes dedicated to autonomous vehicles. The idea is that the infrastructure investment will give AVs access to real-world traffic conditions but keep AVs separated from other traffic to minimize risks.  The construction work is expected to be completed in 2020. More information is at this link.

U.S. based engineering and construction firm CDM Smith has produced an animated video clip highlighting the transformations happening in the transportation industry. These are: Mobility-as-a-Service, Electric Vehicles, Autonomous Vehicles, Economics of Travel and Big Data Analytics. Well worth watching.  The YouTube clip can be viewed at this link.

As we reflect in this newsletter from time to time, AVs cover a wide spectrum in vehicle automation. Among them are autonomous delivery vehicles.  On April 12, 2019, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV); released proposals for granting permits to companies wishing to test their delivery vehicles on California’s public roads. The test vehicles must weigh less than 10,001 pounds (4,536 Kg) and companies must not charge a delivery fee. More information is on DMV’s site at this link.

On April 26, 2019, in a setback for Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) proponents, Toyota announced its decision to pause further deployment of DSRC in its vehicles. Previously, Toyota’s plan was to install DSRC in its new vehicles starting in 2021.  The reasons given by Toyota for this decision are uncertainty of (U.S.) federal government’s commitment to preserve the 5.9 GHz spectrum band for DSRC as well as greater support from the rest of automotive industry. In a similar move, Ford has announced its commitment to C-V2X cellular technology as opposed to DSRC. More information is at this link.

The Pentagon has reportedly allocated US$3.7 billion for its  ‘unmanned and autonomous technologies’ program. Now, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for research and engineering predicts that the U.S. Army will get driverless vehicles before cities do.  To this end, 10 autonomous trucks went through unmanned driving trials at an army base in Texas and 60 more test trucks are due to arrive at more military posts in 2019 and 2020.  More information is at this link.

Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) announced a further investment of US$1 billion for its self-driving vehicles program.  The participants in this round of funding are SoftBank Vision Fund ($333 million), Denso and Toyota ($667 million combined). This latest round of funding values ATG at US$7.3 billion.  More information is at this link.

And in a similar move, Cruise – the self-driving division of GM announced a US$1.15 billion investment from a group led by T. Rowe Price which includes money from GM itself, Honda and Japanese tech investment firm SoftBank. More information is at this link.

A Dubai based company called ‘ecocoast’ has developed an electrically-powered autonomous marine vehicle for collecting plastic waste, debris and algae in marinas, lakes, ponds and, canals. and coastal areas. The product called ‘Wasteshark’ weighs 60 Kg and is made from composite fibre.   More information is at this link.

MIT Technology Review did a recent interview with Dr. Amnon Shashua who is the CEO of Israel-based Mobileye (an Intel company) on the challenges ahead for AVs. In his view, there are three main challenges that AVs must tackle before they can go mainstream. They are: building a safe car, building a useful car and building an affordable car. Mobileye is now working to overcome these challenges on all fronts. It has been refining its perception system, creating detailed road maps, and working with regulators in China, the U.S., Europe, and Israel to standardize the rules of autonomous driving behavior.  More information is at this link.

Ride-hailing firm Lyft believes autonomous vehicles are part of its future development. Accordingly, it has invested in its own R&D as well as working with other AV firms such as Aptiv and Waymo.  In a recent article, one of Lyft’s employees describes how Lyft went from zero to creating an AV development team in just 18 months.  The article describes all the skills needed to put such a team together and the challenges of managing such a team spread across several countries and time zones.  Lyft’s self-driving unit is called ‘Lyft Level 5’.  More information is at this link.

Although Lyft has its own AV development program, it has also partnered with Waymo to deploy 10 of Waymo’s self-driving cars in its network in the Phoenix area. Waymo launched its own commercial taxi service in the same area in December 2018 and has reportedly signed up over 1,000 customers so far. More information is at this link.

AVs are heavily dependent on AI and deep learning for their operations.  One of many technical challenges for AVs is to make them more human-like so they can perceive their environment like humans.  To illustrate the point, some Google researchers have devised experiments to demonstrate how AI systems could be easily fooled.  For example, putting specially prepared stickers on STOP signs has tricked AVs to treat a STOP sign as speed limit sign. In another demonstration, Tencent researchers showed that a few tiny squares placed at a road intersection can fool the autopilot of a Tesla Model S into driving into oncoming traffic.  The technique for deceiving AI systems is known as ‘adversarial attack’.  More information is at this link.

The LiDAR is one of the key sensors on an AV.  California based Velodyne is a leading manufacturers of LiDAR for AV applications. Being a complex and sophisticated sensor, making them has been expensive till now.  Velodyne has now teamed up with Japan’s Nikon to mass-produce LiDARs using Nikon’s expertise in production of precision optical instruments and production techniques. Nikon has invested US$25 million in Velodyne. This is in addition to other investments by Ford and Baidu previously announced.  More information is at this link.

Well-known AV companies such as Waymo, Cruise and Uber ATG often dominate AV news. However, there are many lesser known companies making essential sub-systems for AVs in areas such as mapping, simulation, tele-operation, data annotation, object detection and prediction, dispatching/network operations and driver monitoring. An article in the Medium identifies 21 companies working in these areas and explains why their work is important for AV development. The article can be viewed at this link.

There are numerous reports in the media about how technology and car companies are planning to deploy large number of robo-taxis in the near future. In a recent study, a pair of MIT researchers concluded that the fare per mile of autonomous taxis drops sharply from $6 to $2 for a fleet of 10 vehicles before leveling off at about $1.60 per mile for a fleet of up to 50 vehicles. A conventional taxi’s per mile cost is $0.72 no matter how many vehicles are in the fleet. This conclusion runs contrary to the accepted wisdom that robo-taxis will be cheaper to own and operate that human-driven taxis.  More information is at this link.  A copy of the MIT paper (30 pages) titled Autonomous Vehicles and Public Health: High Cost or High Opportunity? can be download from this link.

One of the well-known people in the AV world is Dr. Chris Urmson. He was formerly the head of the Google self-driving group and is currently the CEO of Aurora – another AV development startup company. In a recent interview, Dr. Urmson predicted that AVs will see  small-scale deployments in the next five years, and will be phased in over the next 30 to 50 years.  The article and interview (in audio) can be viewed / heard at this link.

In a substantial move, the State of Florida Senate has passed a bill to allow self-driving and driverless vehicles to operate across the state.  This includes for-hire transportation and transportation for compensation by Florida residents.  Bill SB 932 is 18 pages long and can be viewed/downloaded at this link.

And finally, Swedish startup Einride has secured a public road permit from the authorities to start operating its T-Pod automated delivery truck on a commercial basis.  The T-Pod weighs 26 tonnes when full and does not have a driver cabin. This reduces road freight operating costs by around 60 percent versus a diesel truck with a driver. Einride hopes to have 200 vehicles in operation by the end of 2020.  More information is at this link.

Upcoming AV-Related Events

June 9-12, 2019:  UITP Global Public Transport Summit; Stockholm, Sweden

June 11-14, 2019: HxGN Love, Las Vegas NV

June 13, 2019: Third Annual Autonomous Vehicle Summit; San Francisco CA.

June 25-27, 2019: Autonomous Ship Technology Symposium, Amsterdam, Netherlands

July 15-18, 2019  AUVSI Automated Vehicle Symposium, Orlando, Florida

Sept 9-10, 2019: CAV Canada 2019, a national CAV conference organized by the Kanata North Business Association, Invest Ottawa and CAVCOE; Brookstreet Hotel, Ottawa

Sept 22-25, 2019:  Joint TAC and ITS Canada conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Sept 22-25, 2019: IEEE Vehicular Technology Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii

Oct 2019: World Congress and Challenge for Self-Driving Transport, Dubai, UAE

Oct 21-25, 2019: ITS World Congress, Singapore

Oct 30-Nov 1, 2019: Unmanned Canada 2019, organized by Unmanned Systems Canada;  Ottawa

Nov 26-27, 2019 The Future of Transportation World Conference,  Vienna, Austria

Jan 7-10, 2020 CES 2020, Las Vegas NV

AV Update is a free, monthly roundup of news and analysis in the world of automated vehicles and their impact on all levels of government and the private sector.

Chief Editor: Ahmad Radmanesh
Contributor to this issue: Barrie Kirk

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© CAVCOE 2019
CAVCOE (formerly the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence) provides advice to public and private sector organizations to help plan for the arrival of self-driving vehicles

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