Regulation of autonomous vehicle technology

Michael Ledgett, Partner, Dentons Canada LLP & Honorary Counsel, Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium

AutopilotAutomated, connected, electric, shared (ACES) vehicle fleets are coming to Canadian roads, likely soon.

The private sector seems keen to play a huge role in supplying and owning ACES fleets, and in providing transportation services to the public in Canadian communities.

What should be the role of governments and government agencies and, in particular, public transit authorities in the deployment and regulation of ACES fleets in Canada?

On January 29, 2018, the policy and planning support committee working group on connected and automated vehicles of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators and the Transportation Association of Canada released a report entitled “The Future of Automated Vehicles in Canada,” which offered the following list of government roles:

  • regulate vehicle safety
  • harmonize standards within Canada and the US
  • encourage innovation
  • protect privacy of individual vehicle users
  • educate the public
  • build data expertise and capacity
  • develop and enforce traffic laws
  • oversee insurance and liability
  • ensure a safe and smooth ride
  • build and upgrade transportation infrastructure

The report also listed the following public policy issues:

  • modal shift and public transit
  • land-use planning
  • accessibility and inclusion
  • fiscal impacts
  • labour market disruptions

There are plenty of opportunities for public transit authorities and the private sector to collaborate in the development and deployment of ACES fleets in Canadian communities.

Autonomous vehiclesCUTA has made regulation on automated vehicles an advocacy priority for 2018-2019. In its 2019 federal pre-budget recommendations, CUTA requested that the federal government consult with its membership on the development of Canadian AV legislation so as to benefit from the expertise of its members in this space. The organization also provided industry insight on regulating AVs and a shared future for urban mobility in a recent September 2018 submission to the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada.

The Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) has launched a national smart vehicle demonstration and integration trial aiming to integrate autonomous, connected, low-speed, electrified shuttles (e-LSAs) in up to a dozen Canadian municipal jurisdictions as first-mile/last-mile applications allied to transit or shared public service routes, with the following objectives:

  • standardized vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications protocols
  • standardized cybersecurity protocols; and
  • standardized interoperability of e-LSA manufacturer equipment.

CUTRIC has engaged more than a dozen public transit authorities and more than a dozen industry stakeholders in the trial.

Governments and their agencies, including public transit authorities, have a huge stake in the development and deployment of ACES fleets in Canadian communities. A wait-and-see posture by transit authorities would likely lead to disruption and lost opportunities. A proactive posture should include the roles of government and the public policy issues listed in the PPSC report.

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