Will Canada pass on this unique opportunity?

Canadian stakeholders must act soon as global automakers are unlikely to develop autonomous vehicles for our relatively small market given the challenges our climate represents.

Cugnot’s Fardier and the “Jamais Contente” have each made their mark on the history of the automobile industry by becoming respectively the first combustion engine vehicle in 1771 and the first electric vehicle to exceed 100 km/h in 1899.

A new era and a different paradigm: automobile manufacturers having pushed sales using “the driving experience” for several decades, are they now trying to create a demand for the “self-drive” experience?  The driving experience is about to become secondary with the latest technological advancements. Autonomous vehicles (AV) are undeniably among us!

The Google car and the Mercedes-Benz F015, to name a few, are two “autonomous” vehicles authorized to operate on public roads in several American states. Several projects have started or will be started in Europe. CityMobil 2 in which electrical autonomous low speed shuttles are tested in La Rochelle, in France; also, the city of Milton Keynes, in England, will be experimenting with low-speed electric pods. The number sites and projects are multiplying and several countries, states and municipalities wish to become leaders in this field.

In Canada, no project of remotely similar ambition has been concretely defined. With its Nordic climate and its proximity to the United States, Canada is the ideal testing ground for the harshest conditions this technology must be able to face. Several aspects are already being addressed (including regulations and insurance). However, the main challenge for Canadians, is to ensure this technology is as efficient in winter conditions as it is the almost ideal conditions where trials are currently generally conducted. We must act now to ensure that these advanced technology vehicles are technically capable of circulating in Canada in coming years and that this country’s citizens can profit from the benefits of this technology.

In several applications, AVs effectively replace traditional transportation systems such as buses or light rail as they are less expensive to operate and allow greater flexibility. The pods that have been operating on a guided roadway at Heathrow airport since 2011, are an early example of driverless technology. Since then, numerous autonomous electrical low speed shuttles have been introduced including the Navya (Induct) and the EZ 10 (Ligier group). These vehicles have not been used in extreme climatic conditions and, if they are to be used in Canada, they need to be proven.  Canadian businesses need to be involved in testing this technology and the challenges it presents.

Today, we have difficulty establishing a standardized system for electrical vehicle charging (Tesla, CHAdeMo, SAE.). How will we harmonize decisions with respect to driverless vehicles? Are decision-making algorithms infallible? In what conditions should we be using driverless vehicles? What impact will winter climatic conditions have on the navigation system? Only by real-world testing will we have concrete answers to these questions.

Canadian stakeholders must act soon as global automakers are unlikely to develop autonomous vehicles for our relatively small market given the challenges our climate represents.  Canada has a lot to offer: our expertise in robotics, optics and advanced engineering can contribute significantly to the development of this technology.

We need testing grounds or geographic areas where pilot projects can be undertaken, where vehicles can be tested. We need to encourage those involved in the development of this technology globally to undertake their winter and year-round testing here, attracting research and development activity, ensuring knowledge transfer to our engineers and software developers and setting the groundwork for tomorrow. Will Canada pass on this unique opportunity?

Photo : Shutterstock Filipe Frazao

12 million driverless cars/yr by 2035

44% of US drivers “would consider buying a fully autonomous vehicle within the next 10 years

BCG study estimates that fully driverless cars “could make up nearly 10% of global vehicle sales, or about 12 million cars a year by 2035”. These estimates may need to be reconsidered in a context of shared driverless vehicles. What’s even more interesting is that according to this same study, 44% of US drivers “would consider buying a fully autonomous vehicle within the next 10 years”.

Car sharing and its impact on auto sales

ARK Investment Management estimates that “a rise in car sharing to 5% of all journeys could almost halve US auto sales”.

ARK Investment Management estimates that “a rise in car sharing to 5% of all journeys could almost halve US auto sales”. Given the rapid expansion of car sharing programs around the world, it is understandable that auto manufacturers are interested in expanding into car sharing and other mobility services.

Germany’s A9 autobahn set for driverless

Germany has approved the use of self-driving cars (SDCs) on a portion of its autobahn A9.

Germany has approved the use of self-driving cars (SDCs) on a portion of its autobahn A9. Given the efforts of several German auto manufacturers and suppliers in developing self driving technology, this is overdue.

Incentivizing the uptake of autonomy

Could this be the way that penetration will be increased?

Surveys and studies undertaken in recent months have focused on the interest in and potential uptake of autonomous vehicles. At the Institute of Car Fleet Management’s annual conference, that took place at the end of last year, delegates were told that the government “should incentivize the uptake of autonomous vehicle technology in the same way it subsidizes ultra-low emission vehicles”. Given the environmental and safety benefits of this technology, could this be the way that penetration will be increased?

CES: autonomy, car sharing, car swapping, keyless access to vehicles and more

For its car sharing DriveNow program, BMW also introduced a new MasterCard credit card that makes on demand car sharing even easier.

At CES, numerous manufacturers showed off their advances in autonomy, including Bosch, Audi, Valeo, BMW and Delphi . For its car sharing DriveNow program, BMW also introduced a new MasterCard credit card that makes on demand car sharing even easier. The card communicates with vehicles using near field communications, allowing users to just get into the cars and drive away. The card is a key for the car. No additional identification requirements because the card already contains all that information.

Keyless access to vehicles was also demonstrated by Audi as it unveiled a smartwatch to unlock your car.

Ford announced a car swapping experiment, to be undertaken in Dearborn MI, that is aimed at allowing people to use the right vehicle for the right job.