CAVCOE's Barrie Kirk recently had a tour of the Ottawa Light Rail Transit (Ottawa LRT) project, a tour that was organized by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers. It was very interesting and a great opportunity to appreciate the size, scope and complexity of the project. Clearly, there are some major engineering challenges in the design and deployment. Phase 1 is currently being built and planning for Phase 2 is underway. During the Q&A session, Barrie asked about the planning for Phase 2 and whether the role of automated vehicles (AVs) and automated taxis was being considered. It appears that they are not.
Given that Phase 2 of the Ottawa LRT will likely be opened in the 2020s and be operational for at least the remainder of this century, it is important that planners realize that transit in the future will not be an extrapolation of the past. Traditional transit will still be needed, but the arrival of automated vehicles and Transportation-as-a-Service in a few years will cause a substantial disruption in the way transit is used and passenger volumes. To ignore this reality on a multi-billion dollar, tax-payer funded infrastructure project is short-sighted and poor policy.
Ottawa is not alone in this. We note that AVs are not being included by engineers and planners in Transportation Master Plans (TMPs) or Long Range Transportation Plans (LRTPs) in any meaningful way by any other city in the world at this time. This was something that CAVCOE’s Paul Godsmark pointed out in his presentation to the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) Annual Conference in his presentation on the Urban Planning and Sustainable Transportation panel.
Phase 2 would be a great opportunity for Ottawa to show leadership and become a beacon for transportation planning in the coming era of automated vehicles.
See also the "transit" section later in this newsletter.
Elon Musk says next year's Tesla cars will be able to self-drive 90 percent of the time. In an excerpt from a CNNMoney interview, Tesla boss Elon Musk says that the self-driving car — or "autopilot," the term he prefers — is basically just months away from retail. Here's what he said:
"Autonomous cars will definitely be a reality. A Tesla car next year will probably be 90 percent capable of autopilot. Like, so 90 percent of your miles can be on auto. For sure highway travel."In a separate interview with The Nikkei, Tesla CEO Elon Musk also said that "Full auto-pilot capability is going to happen, probably, in the five- or six-year time frame. The overall system and software will be programmed by Tesla, but we will certainly use sensors and sub-components from many companies." Tesla aims to get a head start by incorporating some of the technology in a new electric vehicle slated to go into production around three years from now, he added. This car is expected to be priced at around $35,000.
Rolls-Royce announced at the Paris motor show that it will to add a 'robotic' chauffeur. The iconic British luxury car maker is looking to its parent company, BMW, to provide the autonomous driving technologies before the end of the decade. "But we have already autonomous driving – we have chauffeurs," joked Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Muller-Otvos while speaking at the Paris motor show.
Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a demonstration truck in Stuttgart that shows the sorts of things it expects to be selling in the year 2025. The truck includes automated driving technologies such as radar and camera systems to help the thing drive itself—at least on highways. For this concept vehicle, Mercedes-Benz has retained the human driver for back-up. The truck also has LED lighting and a sleek and aerodynamic design.
‘Audi Tests Driverless-Car Technology at 190 mph’ was one of the more attention grabbing headlines that we have seen around AVs. Not that we expect AVs to be driving this fast anytime soon, but it does demonstrate the skill level that AVs can bring to bear in the complex environment of the road network.
‘GM’s Mary Barra on looking back while moving forward’ – the CEO of GM acknowledges how important autonomous vehicles will be in the near future.
Volvo has said that it wants to eliminate crash-related deaths in its cars by the end of the decade. To get there, it is developing autonomous features that reduce human error by making cars better at driving themselves. Whether it’s safely following cars in traffic or automatically stopping when drivers make risky turns, ensuring these systems work properly takes a lot of testing. Volvo has also built AstaZero, a large testing facility outside Gothenburg. The name stands for Active Safety Test Area (ASTA), and the work done there is all about seeing how technology can prevent accidents. Engineers from Volvo and elsewhere will be able to test nearly any real-life traffic scenario on more than 21.5 million square feet (about 375 football fields) of space. Volvo, which is footing part of the bill and will using the new facility, is focusing heavily on autonomous driving, automatic braking, and driver distraction.
As we have said before in AV Update, we think that aiming for zero crash-related deaths is a wonderful objective, but we worry that it is setting the public's expectations too high.
A report from the US-based Cato Institute earlier in September was an interesting read. One sentence says: "Congress should stop funding expensive and obsolete rail transit projects, which will have no place in a future likely to be characterized by widespread sharing of self-driving cars". To our way of thinking, this is a bit extreme, but the Cato Institute is very much on the right wing in the US and supports the philosophy of "let's reduce the role of government as much as possible". But, as mentioned above, we feel that it is essential that the planning for major transportation projects should consider the role of automated taxis and self-driving cars. The key is to optimize the role of each mode of transportation, including high-volume traditional transit and the future Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS) based on fully-automated taxis.
"How Will Self-Driving Cars Affect Public Transit?" asks a recent article in About Money. The answer in the same article is that self-driving cars will likely reduce the demand for public transit by providing a means of transportation for groups of people - seniors, disabled , and the young - who currently take transit because they are unable to drive. Self-driving cars will also reduce demand for transit because automated taxis will be significantly cheaper. About Money also points out that, in the transit industry, self-guided transit is not new, extending from self-guided systems in Vancouver, Lille (France), London and other places with no on-board personnel at all, to systems that are technically self-guided in San Francisco and Washington (D.C.) but have employees at the control for reasons of safety redundancy or union regulations.
Socio-Economic Impacts of AVs
A major benefit of AVs is the large reduction in traffic collisions and we are always pleased when this is recognized by others. In a recent joint news release issued by MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and CAVCOE, MADD Canada said it supports the development of advanced technology that will reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries on our roadways. “MADD Canada looks forward to the advancements in automated vehicle technology that will eventually eliminate impaired driving completely,” said Andrew Murie, Chief Executive Officer of MADD Canada.
A town built for driverless cars is a mocked-up set of busy streets in Ann Arbor, Michigan that will provide the toughest test yet for self-driving cars. Complex intersections, confusing lane markings, and busy construction crews will be used to gauge the capability of the latest automotive sensors and driving algorithms. Mechanical pedestrians will even leap into the road from between parked cars so researchers can see if on-board safety systems can cope with this type of behaviour.
‘Why self-driving cars will change retirement’ is an interesting look at how important AVs could be to the older demographics. CAVCOE’s Paul Godsmark plans to buy a pimped-out automated RV when he retires and tour North America following the good weather.
Government / Regulatory
The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) is a non-profit organization comprising representatives of the provincial, territorial and federal government agencies that manage licensing, registration and control of motor vehicle transportation and highway safety. CCMTA has established an AV working group to carry out a scoping exercise. The working group is considering a number of plans including a series of deliverables and a possible workshop. More information is provided in the CCMTA's Fall 2014 Newsletter.
Our reaction is that this is a great step forward, especially as the CCMTA includes Canadian federal, provincial and territorial representatives. We hope to see real progress on this file in 2015.
The Government of Ontario has announced a Connected Vehicle/Autonomous Vehicle (CVAV) Research Program for Road Vehicles that provides funding to businesses and academic institutions to develop and commercialize innovations in connected and autonomous vehicle technologies, with a focus on projects that show a strong potential for commercialization. The program is a partnership of the Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of Research and Innovation and the Ontario Centres of Excellence.
Other AV Articles
‘How Google plans to bring driverless cars to market’ is a short video interview whose title promises much more than it delivers, but it is good to see Google start to openly discuss this subject. Meanwhile, it seems that Google have been testing their new prototype vehicles -- with no-one on board -- near their Mountain View headquarters.
Morgan Stanley’s top auto analyst appears to be under no illusion on how big the impact of AVs will be in their latest report ‘Death of an Auto Analyst’. The report states "Our team has come to the realization that a prosecution of our craft along traditional lines will fade to irrelevance, ultimately ending in extinction” and "In the internet of things, the automobile is the ultimate 'thing'. Without embracing the change, we have no future as auto analysts." It concludes "We can debate the curvature of the journey, but to us the destination is crystal clear,"
Los Angeles could one day battle snarling traffic with a fleet of self-driving cars — at least if Mayor Eric Garcetti gets his way. Speaking at an event sponsored by The Atlantic magazine, he re-iterated his vision for Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS) , a ride-sharing service that would use automated cars that can drive themselves. This is not science fiction talk. Garcetti said that the city was working with the University of California, Los Angeles, to create an area near the university campus to test the technology out.
Around 76 percent of people who drive to work do it alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. When drivers aren't commuting by themselves, they are looking for parking. In San Francisco, transportation officials said that 30 percent of traffic in the city was caused by people looking for parking, while a study from Imperial College in London found that 40 percent of all gasoline used in congested urban areas was burned by people circling for a parking spot.
TaaS offers many benefits including lower cost transportation, fewer traffic collisions, fatalities and injuries, and less pollution because most of the driving we do is in our own city, and urban driving is ideal for electric cars.
IEEE Vehicular Technology Conference 2014
The IEEE held its Vehicular Technology Conference 2014 in Vancouver in September. Barrie Kirk and Paul Godsmark both spoke at the conference.
Barrie gave a keynote address titled "Three technologies that will change the World". It provided an overview of automated vehicles (AVs), connected vehicles (CVs) and electric vehicles (CVs). The paper also explained the synergies and convergence between these technologies and the resulting ACE (automated, connected and electric) vehicles. The slide deck is available here.
Paul's presentation was titled "Autonomous Vehicles and IEEE: How did we get here? What next?". It traces the history of AVs and the describes the trends, benefits and the paradigm shift that will occur. The slide deck is available here.
Upcoming AV-related Events
November 17: The California Self Help Counties Coalition (SHCC) is holding their annual ‘Focus on the Future Conference’. CAVCOE’s Paul Godsmark is honoured to have been invited to speak to the SHCC who represent the transportation interests of 31 million Californians.
November 18-20: The Connected Car Expo in L.A. (preceding the L.A. Auto Show) has CAVCOE’s Paul Godsmark on the panel for ‘Autonomous Car Fallout: What Happens Next?’ – it promises to be a very exciting event with plenty of media attention.
November 17-18, 2014: Automotive Tech.AD's conference on The Future of ADAS; Detroit
November 30 - December 3, 2014: The Association for Commuter Transportation of Canada (ACT Canada) conference on Sustainable Mobility & Healthy Communities Summit 2014 in Markham ON. Ryan Lanyon (City of Toronto) and Barrie Kirk are co-presenting a paper on "Automated vehicles: the technology that will change our mobility experience".
May 24-28, 2015: ITS Canada's 2015 Annual Conference and General Meeting; Ottawa.
June 16-19, 2015: CCMTA's Annual Meeting; Whitehorse, Yukon.
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