The city is getting ready for the day when driverless cars and trucks dominate our streets. And it’s coming sooner than you think. City council’s urban planning committee has heard that the city’s planning department is working towards having a game plan ready for when the technology comes to Edmonton.
A consultant told the councillors that private interests are racing to be first. Because that way they’ll make a fortune leaving every one else behind. It left Coun. Andrew Knack admittedly wondering if it’ll be worth it invest billions in expanding the LRT.
“It’s a question I continue to struggle with. Is this five year from now technology? Could it potentially render mass transit obsolete? There’s a possibility.”
“The private sector will have paid for almost everything of this,” said consultant Paul Godsmark, the chief technology officer for the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence. “(Autonomous vehicles) will be reaching nearly one hundred per cent of the population as opposed to taking it from the current ten per cent that is served by transit and LRT and taking it to twenty per cent.”
He said Ford, Tesla, Baidu, which is the Google equivalent in China, and Google itself are competing to have mass production ready with in the next five years. “I believe it’s very very close and when it’s rolled out it will be city by city. I can’t see it being rolled out by a few cars here and there. It’s in the interests of the people who make these vehicles to retain ownership and simply sell us a service of transportation.”
His expectation is, the southern United States will be first, then the trend will move into Canada once it’s proven winter weather can be handled. “We know that Google, Ford and Volvo are definitely doing some snow and winter type testing. I’ve seen that the technology is already there. It’s not cheap enough to be commercializable yet, but in the five year time frame that we’re looking at I think it’s almost certain that the technology will be available, it will be cost effective and it will be much better than human.”
“We are exploring a low speed pilot,” said Erin Toop an engineer with urban planning for the city. “It would have to be on private roadways because right now we are not able to operate automated vehicles on public roadways in Alberta.” A proposal on that low speed pilot will be before city council early next year.
Toop isn’t surprised that things are moving quickly. “We are seeing examples of level four automated shuttle buses being deployed in some cities in Europe so that does feel pretty tangible that there are examples where cities are pilot testing level four automated shuttles,” she said.
Godsmark said driverless vehicles will also play a key roll in the movement of goods. Pizza delivery is already happening that way, with what appears to be a cooler-on-wheels rolling along sidewalks. “There are trials happening later this year, and early next year in London, New York, San Fransisco. There’s a company called Starship, there’s a company called Dispatch. Dominoes Pizza are looking at doing trials in Wellington in New Zealand with this form of delivery.”
You can read the report here by going to 6.2