At the April 3rd Urban Planning Committee a report was presented based on an inquiry I made in December of 2017 regarding the Minister of Transportation reorienting the Department of Transportation to prepare for the rise of automated (autonomous, self-driving) vehicles in Alberta. While the province has been preparing for a variety of Intelligent Transportation systems for many years, January of 2019 will mark the beginning of the legislative changes that are required for full implementation of automated vehicle testing throughout Alberta. Municipalities then execute the legislative and regulatory framework created by province, including AV safety enforcement, land use decisions, and operation of transit systems. In order to prepare for these transformative changes and take advantage of the opportunities it provides, we as a City need to be leaders in the deployment of AV testing.

In order to do this, partnerships and collaboration between all orders of government and stakeholders is essential to successful implementation. The Future of Automated Vehicles in Canada Report explains how important these partnerships are. In Canada, the federal government is responsible for establishing the national AV policy and regulatory framework. Transport Canada is responsible for keeping vehicle manufacturers accountable for safety  standards compliance and emissions requirements. Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for creating the legislative framework for AV testing and deployment within their own jurisdictions. They are also responsible for driver licensing, vehicle registration and insurance, rules of the road, and any changes to highway infrastructure that might be needed to support AV deployment. Key industry players include automakers, auto parts manufacturers along with local Universities, technology firms, and research institutes. As AV technology advances and is deployed onto public roads, the AV industry and all orders of government will need to work together.

The report presented (Item 7.1 attachment 1) cautions that if the City does not continue to advocate for and advance automated vehicle technology, other municipalities or other sectors will become the leaders and yield greater planning and financial benefit from the technology. In order to do this, Admin will be developing a Smart Transportation Action Plan to address and mitigate this risk. We heard from the founder and President of Magnovate, Dan Corns and John Stepovy from Pacific Western Transportation who both expressed interest in partnering with the City on AV transportation programs, as well as ACAMP and Alberta Innovates I am encouraged by the number of interested partners and am excited to see these relationships explored further. I did make sure to clarify that the process for choosing these partnerships is fair and open for all to explore. The Smart Transportation Action Plan will be presented to the Urban Planning Committee in September 2018.  

The timing of this also aligns well with Council’s review and update of the Strategic Plan for 2019-2028. In order to incorporate emerging technologies into our development plan, testing is required to provide information on how that technology operates in Edmonton. Especially when thinking about new and emerging technology like automated vehicles, it’s is important to understand and test the technology so that we are ready to incorporate it into our transportation system in the future.

The work we are doing on new and emerging technologies in transportation including automated vehicles aligns with our City goals in a number of ways:

  • Regional and Economic Resilience: Preparing early and being a leader among Canadian municipalities can attract new investment, diversify our economy and insulate us from disruptions in our economy. 
  • Urban Shift: Planning infrastructure with automated vehicles in mind creates a flexible urban environment that can more easily be changed once the technology is implemented.  
  • Energy and Climate: Many automated vehicles will be electric which will help us move towards our goal of being a low carbon city. In addition, automated vehicles will make our transportation system more efficient, reducing the amount of time vehicles spend on the road.  
  • Healthy City: Automated vehicles will mean that eventually, people will spend less time commuting or the time spent commuting will be used to do other things. This will help people lead more healthy and fulfilled lives. 

Therefore in preparation of this, I made the following two motions which passed:

 That Administration, in partnership with relevant stakeholders, provide a report on implementation of Connected and/or Automated Vehicle pilot(s) testing with a target start date of January 1, 2019 or earlier to align with new Provincial rules on AV testing. Administration to provide progress report in third quarter.

Subsequent motion:

Can administration in consultation with relevant stakeholders, develop a service package for the necessary staff and potential capital required to support Automated Vehicle testing pilot(s) within the 2019-2022 operating budgets.

The work that we are doing to test and understand automated vehicles will help us identify the societal, economic, financial, environmental, and land use planning impacts. It will help City Council make decisions about how and when these emerging technologies should be deployed in Edmonton. By planning ahead, we can make investments that will serve people today and adapt when new technology arrives. This will ensure we have positive outcomes for all Edmontonians.




Written by A. Knack and K. Machin


  1. Larry Maze on April 4, 2018 at 8:34 am

    Has there been any consulting with the public on this issue or are you going to just assume that we all want to embrace driverless car testing on Edmonton public streets?

    • Andrew Knack on April 6, 2018 at 5:03 pm

      Thanks for the comment Larry. While I’ve personally been talking about this for the last few years and campaigned on the idea of the city taking leadership in the testing of this technology, there would absolutely need to be lots of engagement. Before any testing would occur on public streets, the City would likely be required to test in locations like the Research and Technology Park or on a road closed off to public traffic. While that type of testing has been occurring in many cities for a number of years, our climate presents a different set of challenges so that would involve some proper testing before moving onto public streets.

      I should also note that I’ve never assumed that every person will embrace this technology but my thought is that it would be good for us to understand the impacts of this technology so we can prepare for it versus letting the rest of the world create the policies around it. We can understand and prepare for the impacts to the economy and land use versus having being reactive which could create major issues down the road. Thanks again for the comment. If you have any other questions or comments, please let me know.

  2. Darcy Reynard on April 4, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Please read this paper:

    I disagree with the Urban Shift and Healthy City points in your blog. There seems to be growing research that private AVs will have a negative effect on urban form. I think AV technology should be used for mass transit and the City should encourage that research.

    • Andrew Knack on April 6, 2018 at 5:06 pm

      Thanks Darcy. You are correct that if the private AV model is used, that would have a negative impact. Most companies have suggested the fleet-based model which would have a major positive impact on urban form. Part of why I think the City should be heavily involved in testing is so we can help move towards the fleet-based option. I’m concerned that if we are testing and others cities push the private AV model, we will be stuck with a system that could create significant challenges to our urban form. I completely agree that AV technology could play a major role in the future of mass transit and I would hope we absolutely encourage that approach. Thanks again for the comment.

  3. Lucien Levesque on January 19, 2019 at 6:28 am

    What does everybody think about self driving cars? I personally don’t think they’re a good idea. A human is a responsible compassionate driver while a machine has no feelings and has no regard of the importance of a humans life. A human driver will do everything possible to avoid an accident that causes harm or injury to somebody, while a machine just doesn’t think like that, it lacks compassion and empathy. Let’s start a conversation about this topic, I’m interested in your views on this matter. Besides, millions of people will lose jobs if machines take over the driving industry, and for all the people that would lose jobs that would be more of a problem than a problem solver. Technology does not always have the solution to what keeps the human race happy and healthy. I will never enter into a self driving vehicle for my entire life! When it comes to safety, I trust a human behind the wheel, always and forever!

  4. Lucien Levesque on January 19, 2019 at 11:15 am

    According to the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), there were 283,185 truck drivers employed in Canada, making up 1.57% of all employment in the country. According to the 2006 Census, taxi driving has become an occupation highly concentrated with immigrants in Canada. There were over 50,000 taxi drivers in Canada; two out of four drivers were immigrants. I can not find information about how many people drive buses in Canada, but I believe it would be at least 50 000. That equals 383 185 people working as a driver in Canada. With around 37 million people living in Canada, that’s just over 1% of the population of Canada being employed as a driver. With your enthusiasm towards self driving cars being the future, the results would be roughly 1% of the population in Canada would be unemployed and need to find other work. What are those people going to do? What if they have been driving all their life and don’t know anything else, they will have a resume with driving experience that won’t apply to other areas of work in Canada. What is your solution to the loss of jobs that self driving cars will create? How do self driving cars stimulate our economy? It sounds to me like self driving cars will make the rich richer and the poor poorer, as it will most likely be big business that makes self driving cars and trucks to work in Canada transporting goods and humans. This means self driving cars will put more wealth into the hands of the rich and take away wealth from the poor, furthering the gap in inequality. Please explain how self driving cars are in the interest of the Canadian people given these stats?

    • Andrew Knack on January 21, 2019 at 11:12 am

      Thanks for the comment. Part of my desire to see Edmonton take a leadership role in this area is I don’t think we will have a choice. I think we are already seeing freight companies move towards this based on safety improvements and reduction in operating costs and therefore I think that we can also take the lead in helping to transition people in this field to other areas. The alternative is that if we don’t do anything, there is a good chance we will get caught in a situation where many people driving could find themselves out of work without any plan to help them find new work. I’ve already been talking with the union leadership for transit to make sure we are actively working together on this new reality instead of waiting until it’s too late.

  5. Lucien Levesque on January 23, 2019 at 7:53 am

    I have been taking the ETS almost daily as of late. I enjoy being greeted by the bus driver as I walk into the bus, and If I don’t need a transfer I can let him know. A machine would most likely spit out a transfer no matter what I say, and that’s worse for the environment. I also missed my bus stop and was able to catch the bus at a red light and the driver let me in, an automated bus would never do that, they would just keep driving along and I would have to wait for the next one. Your attitude that this is the future and we don’t have a choice in this matter, it’s just going to happen is a bad attitude. It only takes a few concerned people to change the world. I promise you that I will do everything in my power to educate, do interviews with people who drive ETS buses and ride ETS buses. I would personally boycott the ETS if it became my only option was to enter a self driving bus, and I would encourage other people to do the same. You said “The alternative is that if we don’t do anything, there is a good chance we will get caught in a situation where many people driving could find themselves out of work without any plan to help them find new work.” What is your argument behind this statement, how does this even make any sense, do you have any numbers or data to back this statement up? You said ” I’ve already been talking with the union leadership for transit to make sure we are actively working together on this new reality instead of waiting until it’s too late.” what do you mean it would be too late? Your saying this change is inevitable and that jumping on the band wagon now is the best idea because in the future it will be too late? What are we going to be late for, we don’t need automated vehicles, we are doing just fine right now with humans driving. What are we going to be too late for? You don’t really make any sense Andrew in my opinion, and your pessimistic attitude towards the fact that this is inevitable shows that you don’t believe in the power of people who believe in a better way of doing things. Humans First, Machines second! Let’s get together and defend our professions!

    • Andrew Knack on January 28, 2019 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks for the comment. Part of why I view this as inevitable is because of safety. The number of injuries and death due to vehicle collisions are something that can be avoided. Many of the studies that have been completed on automated vehicles suggest that collisions will likely drop by around 90%. To eliminate that many injuries and fatalities is one of the main reasons I would expect this technology to become the primary way of moving. Defending professions is something you can do when taking a leadership role in new technology. It allows us to work with staff to prepare for that future. The unions see this as a likely reality, considering the heavy investment in this technology by all vehicle manufacturers, so it would make sense for all of us to work together.

  6. Lucien Levesque on January 25, 2019 at 8:35 am

    Let’s say I get on a bus and there is somebody on the bus who threatens me with discriminatory comments or something along those lines. A human bus driver would come to my defense and protect me from such abuse, and in all likelihood the bus driver would kick the person off the bus to protect me. If the Bus was an automated vehicle, what would I do if somebody on the bus threatened me? Would I just have to look out for myself and try to exit the bus away from harm? How is a computer supposed to help me in a time of need? I feel safe with a human bus driver because I know that a human bus driver will protect me from harm and do everything in his or her power to remove any potential threat that is made on a bus. What if an old Grandma was on the bus all alone by herself, and a young gangster came on the bus and mugged her? A human Bus driver would come to her defense, where as a computer could do nothing as the computer does not understand when somebody is in danger. Automated vehicles will lower the safety standards for people who want to ride ETS. Please explain to me how the city of Edmonton plans to protect people riding the ETS when there is a computer driving the bus? Thanks for your time!

    • Andrew Knack on January 28, 2019 at 1:45 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I would imagine that for the foreseeable future that cities would still have someone working on the bus to serve people. They might be driving the vehicle anymore but that would simply allow them to spend more time interacting with people. Taking a leadership role in testing would allow us to lead in the creation of policy and planning on ideas like that.

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