What is an Automated Vehicle?

Automated vehicles (AVs) are those in which at least some aspects of a safety-critical control function (ex: steering, throttle, or braking) occur without direct driver input. Source: NHTSA Preliminary Statement of Policy Concerning Automated Vehicles (May 30, 2013)  Currently, partial automation is available with some reports suggesting commercial availability of fully automated passenger cars as early as next year. This means that the technology is ready and available for use/testing with some automakers already designing vehicles with partial automated functions.  

Potential Benefits:

  • Reduction in traffic collisions and traffic related injuries with some estimates as high as 90% reduction in all auto related collisions.
  • Financial savings of a reduction in traffic collisions and injuries.
  • Reduction in traffic congestion.
  • Increased mobility for children, persons with mobility issues and seniors.
  • Lower fuel consumption and pollutant emission.   
  • Significant reduction in parking space.
  • Business growth in car/ridesharing opportunities and technology.

State of Technology AV

In 2015, the City began working with Provincial and Federal governments as well as researchers and industry leaders to study the impacts of AVs within Edmonton.  On September 16, 2015, an information report was provided to the Transportation Committee (now Urban Planning Committee) outlining the approach the City of Edmonton has taken to explore AV technology. The report outlined next steps, which were to evaluate the following:

When are highly advanced road vehicle automation technologies likely to
become adopted and how do they fit within Edmonton’s strategic planning
● What are the potential applications of the technologies (for example, in
private light-duty vehicles, in taxis, and public transit)?
● What are the potential impacts of the various applications on urban
mobility (for example, on road capacity, travel demand, and parking
● What are the potential impacts of the various applications on land use?

You can read the report (Item 6.4 attachment 1) here  

Sustainable Development hired a consultant to complete a study on the travel and land use impacts of AVs in Edmonton with recommendations for next steps. From the final report (attachment 2) council passed the following motion:

That Administration provide a report outlining what it has been doing and what it could be doing differently as a cross-departmental team (including but not limited to Fleet Services, Information Technology, Transportation Operations, Transportation Planning, and Land Use Planning) in advance of the next Transportation Master Plan, Municipal Development Plan, Transit Strategy and any other related plans, in order to address the Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Technology study outlined in the October 19, 2016, Sustainable Development report CR_2953.  You can view the minutes and read the full report (Item 6.2) here.  

At the March 15th Urban Planning Committee, Sustainable Development presented their Interim Report on Cross-Departmental Planning for Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Technology (Item 6.8). In this report, Administration identified current initiatives the City has been involved in.

Late in 2016 a cross-departmental team gathered to discuss current initiatives related to new mobility and how best to address this issue in Edmonton’s next master plans. The concept of new mobility is broader than automated and connected vehicle technology alone. It encompasses trends in demographics, new technology, emerging private transportation providers and access to big data. These trends are increasingly shaping mobility and land use in urban centres. Administration is considering automated and connected vehicle technology under the umbrella of new mobility in order to more comprehensively prepare for the future.

There are a number of new mobility initiatives currently underway as outlined in Attachment 1. The initiatives most related to automated and connected vehicles and their impacts on transportation and land use include:

  • ACTIVE-AURORA Automated Vehicle Pilot and Test Track
  • Automation in Transportation Design Lab
  • ACTIVE-AURORA Connected Vehicle Testbed
  • Carsharing Strategy
  • Transit Strategy
  • Nodes and Corridors Planning
  • Vehicle for Hire Bylaw
  • Annual update on autonomous and connected vehicle technology

The ACTIVE-AURORA Automated Vehicle Pilot and Test Track project has rapidly advanced in the time since October 2016. The University of Alberta gathered representatives from Alberta Transportation, City of Edmonton, City of Calgary and Fairmont Hotels to explore the feasibility of developing an automated vehicle test track on South Campus and procuring one or more electric automated light-duty shuttle(s) for operation and safety testing. The City of Edmonton has taken an active role in coordinating and managing the project thus far. Results of the shuttle operation and safety tests will inform recommendations for changes to Provincial legislation and next steps for the Cities of Edmonton/Calgary and Fairmont Hotels to proceed with public-facing pilots of the shuttles. There is an opportunity to launch this initiative as soon as August 2017 should support and funding be obtained by May 2017. The Automation in Transportation Design Lab is another key initiative that has advanced. By March 1, an internal cross-departmental group and external stakeholders will have explored: “How might we use automated vehicle technology to build a more effective transportation and land use system?” The outcomes of the Design Lab will inform Administration’s work plan and collaborative approach to preparing for automated and connected vehicle technology. A schematic of the Design Lab questions, constraints and potential solutions is provided in Attachment 2.  

Based on this information, I put forward the following motion:

1. That Urban Planning Committee recommend to City Council:

a) That the Mayor, on behalf of City Council, send a letter to the provincial Minister of Transportation requesting support for the testing of automated vehicles in Edmonton.

b) That the Mayor, on behalf of City Council, write a letter in support of the Automated Vehicle Test Track and Pilot initiative outlined in the March 15, 2107 Sustainable Development Report CR_4507.

2. That Administration return to the June 7, 2017 Urban Planning Committee with details of additional City of Edmonton resourcing required to support the Automated Vehicle Test Track and Pilot.

3. That Administration return to the June 7, 2017 Urban Planning Committee with a work plan and framework for addressing automated vehicle technology as a cross-departmental team, including EEDC as per the October 19, 2016 Urban Planning Committee Motion. This work plan will include a work stream on pilot projects, which would involve evaluation of automated vehicle test locations and partnerships.

4. That Administration bring a report with resource options focused on integrating a new mobility paradigm (such as Automated Vehicles, carsharing, and ridesharing) into city strategies to the June 7, 2017 Urban Planning Committee.

This motion was intentionally drafted as a 4 part motion as I feel there is value in addressing each item specifically within the overall objective. For the first part, it’s important that the Mayor solicit support from the Province as this will require collaboration across different orders of government to test and ultimately implement the use of AVs. It also shows that the City is starting to lay the groundwork for companies to start testing. The easier we make it for these companies to work on AVs here, the more likely they will be to set up in Edmonton.  

municipal role AV

The second part is to move forward on the Automated Vehicle Test Track and Pilot Initiative.  This will take considerable collaboration to implement and a letter of support is needed to initiate next steps. This project would give us valuable data and information to better understand the impacts of AVs in our City. It could also lead to future opportunities for the City to collaborate with other partners to test AV technology and mobility technology.   

The intent of the third part was to clearly indicate that any new position(s) would work across all City of Edmonton departments to inform and prepare for the impact AVs would have on each business area as we continue the work the City has been doing around exploration of testing sites, as well as potential partnerships that could help advance this work and provide incentive for other businesses to collaborate as well. We know of a few sites that have already expressed interest in testing AVs. I think the more we have, the better data we have to create policy from. It’s also important that we don’t limit this work with testing personal automobiles. Freight hauling AVs and mass transit AVs are just as important to this work. In fact, I would suggest that this where we’ll see the quickest implementation of AVs in our City and we need to be prepared in advance of this. Dan Duckering who spoke on behalf of the Alberta Motor Transport Association spoke to that point at the meeting and made us aware that there are companies looking for cities in which to test their technology.

In working with administration, it was suggested that a new position(s) be created to lead this work and I wanted to be sure that the role of this position(s) would be to develop policy and implementation of not only AVs but other modes of transportation such as carsharing and ridesharing. These different modal systems are important to the overall transportation policy and are important to explore in relation to AVs as well. The idea behind the final part of this motion is to ideally find a way to create any new position(s) with existing resources.  

I have been very interested in Automated Vehicles for quite some time. This technology will have a major impact across the world and I would like to see Edmonton become a leader in the testing and implementation of AVs. The full implementation of AVs is said to be anywhere from 5 to 20 years away. Therefore I think it’s important for the City to start this preparing for this new reality now for a number of reasons:

  1. Leadership: This is an opportunity for our City to demonstrate leadership in the arrival of AVs on our streets. By guiding the engagement and implementation process, we have more say in how this will be initiated and developed. I’d like to see testing and implementation initiated by Edmontonians as we have the expertise in Edmonton.
  2. Preparation: To begin the work of preparing Edmonton for AVs and their impacts on business and commuter transportation. It also allows the City and ultimately the Province to start the necessary work on licensing, policy and regulations. I think the more prepared we are as a City, the easier the transition will be for all.
  3. Economic Growth: There has already been interest shown from EEDC’s (Edmonton Economic Development Corporation) research and technology park and industrial partners to begin testing AVs on various sites. If Edmonton can demonstrate a willingness and desire for AV testing, it can attract major technology companies to set up their headquarters here as opposed to other Canadian cities. It also spurs economic growth within our transportation and technology fields. The CEO of EEDC, Brad Ferguson, spoke at the Committee meeting to let us know that AVs have the potential to be a $30 million/year industry in Edmonton.
  4. Integration: The use of AV technology and implementation across the City of Edmonton will have significant impacts on our entire organization and departments must understand impacts on their business areas and its role in future planning. It’s important that our City coordinate our efforts to maximize efficiency and implementation procedures.

In closing, the discussion around AVs is not a matter of if the technology will revolutionize the way we do things but rather when that revolution occurs. With that in mind, there will a winter city that take the lead on AVs. Considering the potential economic benefit as well as the ability to transform how cities develop, I believe we need to lead this conversation and am confident that Edmonton will be a leader in automated vehicles.



Co-authored by A. Knack and K. Machin

1 Comment

  1. americanlamboard.com on March 17, 2017 at 7:41 am

    Barring a shift in strategy by President-elect Donald Trump , the auto industry will be required to begin phasing in vehicle-to-vehicle communications, or V2V, systems about three years from now, with the technology required on most cars and trucks two years later.

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