Canada “ill prepared” for automated vehicles

Canada is not ready for driverless cars.

This new technology is supposed to help reduce the number of traffic-related accidents in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and yet, Canada is moving with caution when it comes to self-driving vehicles. A new report from the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications discusses the benefits and the challenges of self-driving vehicles, resulting in the overwhelming conclusion that this country is simply “ill prepared” for this technology.

“We are approaching the end of an era for the traditional, individually-owned, human-driven automobile. In the not-too-distant future, people will be able to summon a driverless taxi from their smartphone and may therefore decide to forego vehicle ownership in favour of these shared automated vehicles,” the report reads. “These technologies also raise a number of concerns in terms of job losses, privacy, cybersecurity, urban sprawl and infrastructure.”

Experts say self-driving vehicles could become commonplace in 10 to 15 years. The report differentiates between autonomous vehicles and connected vehicles, or rather technology that allows for communication between devices like a Smartphone or even vehicle-to-vehicle.

The benefits of automated vehicles are widespread — fewer traffic deaths caused by human error, ridesharing potential, and freedom for the elderly or those with mobility issues. According to the Conference Board of Canada, the economic benefits of self-driving cars could equal approximately $65 billion annually in collision avoidance, heightened productivity, fuel cost savings, and congestion avoidance. They also predict that automated vehicles will prevent 80 per cent of road deaths.

At the same time, there is still a lot unknown about how this technology is going to effect Canadians, especially when it comes to the economy. Experts say this change could affect the jobs of 1.1 million Canadians. For example, the trucking industry expects to employ 25,000 to 30,000 less drivers by 2024. New infrastructure may need to be created to accommodate this technology. Privacy is another big issue, as most technology is vulnerable to cyberattacks and the data collected from an autonomous vehicle would be rather sensitive.

The committee listed 16 recommendations on how to proceed with the integration of self-driving technology. Included in these recommendations is the creation of a joint policy unit to aide in the creation of a national strategy dealing with autonomous vehicles, the writing of legislation to deal with issues related to privacy and cybersecurity, and the formation of a road safety plan. The committee also wants Transport Canada to develop vehicle safety guidelines for the development, testing, and deploying of these new self-driving cars. At the end of the report, the committee calls for a national strategy on how to deal with this new technology.

What do you think about the potential for automated vehicles or connected vehicles? Let us know in the comments below!

December data shows King St. pilot working

Ridership has increased on the King St. streetcar during the morning commute by 25 per cent, according to city data.

Last week, the City of Toronto released the December statistics for the King Street Pilot. It showed an increase in ridership and an improvement in traffic times. In total, reliability has increased by 33 per cent — a shocking statistics only two months into the study. Prior to the pilot, travel times varied at an average of 10 minutes. Throughout December, that average was reduced to 6.7 minutes.

Afternoon rush hour has also improved by about four minutes in each direction, therefore the city is adding more buses along the 504 and 514 routes to accommodate the increased ridership.

“The benefit of pilot projects is that they allow us to learn as we go,” said Councillor Joe Cressy. “We’re able to make improvements, adjust to fill gaps and continue to evaluate options and work together to ensure the pilot works better for everyone.”

For those concerned about traffic on parallel streets, the data shows vehicle travel time on neighbouring streets was only minimally affected. The city will now be offering up to two hours of discounted parking around the corridor to help support local businesses. Ninety parking spaces will be added to side streets in the area to replace the spaces that were removed.

Store owners have reported a decrease in sales since the pilot study began back in November, and have complained rather publicly about how the transit-first policy is impacting their finances. The city will now be measuring point of sale data and providing that information in February’s data set. This will allow staff to determine once and for all how businesses are being affected by the pilot.

“We are dedicated to making sure King Street works for everyone,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory in a statement. “I believe these updates to the Pilot will help transit riders, businesses and drivers. I remain committed to listening to everyone about this project and making changes where they make sense.”

The “Everyone is King” design competition will continue until spring 2018 in an attempt to introduce new and creative public art instillations to fill empty spaces along the corridor.

The King Street pilot runs from Jarvis to Bathurst. The corridor funnels drivers to parallel east-west routes like Queen St., Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, or Front, while still allowing local drivers to access the street for short periods of time.

Lyft brings competition to Uber just in time for the holidays

Lyft is coming to Toronto!

Lyft is the second most popular ride-hailing app and has been around in the United States since 2012, three years after the launch of Uber.  The service will make their first introduction to the international market in Toronto, with a plan to start their business up by the end of the year. This will provide a healthy dose of competition for Uber, a company that is not that popular within the city. In October of 2015, Toronto city council amended a bylaw allowing Uber to operate after the company was hit with a lawsuit filed by the taxi and limo drivers industry in Toronto.

Uber welcomes the competition from Lyft, as Lyft’s president John Zimmer said in a statement. “We see [Toronto] as a world class city. It will likely become one of our top five markets overall,” he said. “As a city, that really shares the values that we have at Lyft- focusing on people taking care of people, treating people well, treating people with mutual respect, and promoting both inclusion and diversity.”

While Uber has faced criticism in the past few months in some major cities, including London and Montreal, Lyft has been increasing its market share in the U.S. and even recorded a growth of  $1.6 billion in financing this past year alone. The company says they are now worth $11bn. In May 2017 , Lyft struck a deal with Google’s Waymo, in order to develop self-driving cars.

The services offered by Lyft are very similar to Uber, complete with reduced prices. But, the launch of  Lyft is  also drawing criticism from the taxi industry operating in Toronto. Beck Taxi, one of the more popular taxi services operating in Toronto, said that Lyft can generate the same amount of negative consequences as Uber, referencing sex assault cases. This all has to do with the qualifications and background information of available drivers.

Lyft has began placing calls for drivers. They plan to launch next month, just in time for the holidays. Lyft will be operating in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton and have released five options that Torontonians can look forward to:

  • Regular vehicles for up to four passengers
  • Vehicles that can carry six passengers ( The plus service)
  • High end cars ( premier)
  • Luxury black cars ( Lux and Lux SUV )

No pricing information has been released, but it is expected to be in the same range as Uber pricing, hopefully with promotional discounts considering this will be their Toronto launch. Lyft has also announced it has its eyes on other major cities, including London, U.K..

It will be interesting to see how different Lyft will be in comparison to Uber and how the Toronto Taxi industry will continue to survive.

What are your thoughts on Lyft launching in Toronto and will you be trying this over Uber ? Comment below.

My bucket of bolts

By  Diane Baker Mason

I’m not a car person. I don’t understand the thrill of a newly-released line of imports, or the sound of a particularly sporty engine shifting gears. I don’t care about shiny, red, or topless,  or mag wheels or leather interiors. To me, a radio that works is a sound system. If a car gets there and back successfully, without noticeably losing bits of itself en route, it’s a luxury vehicle, and I’m a happy motorist.

So it’s a hard fact of life to face that the days of my mini-van “Mom-mobile”, like my days as a mom, are numbered. I no longer need all that room for hockey gear and sticky hordes of teenage boys. Nor am I that interested in (or capable of) tossing a canoe onto the van’s roof and hauling my not-so-physically-fit butt up to Algonquin Park. When I got the van, I was still in good enough condition to wrestle the “noo” onto the roof-racks all by myself — as if that’s ever likely to happen again.

I didn’t even buy the van I’m driving, to tell the truth. My father did. Dad couldn’t stand to see me wobbling around town in a beater of a Hyundai Excel, and after a brief donation of a Buick the size of a – well, of a Buick – he replaced it with a 1991 mini-van. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t really know if it’s a 1991. And I think it’s a Plymouth. No, wait, it’s a Dodge. Nope. I’m really not sure after all. But I am reasonably positive it’s white. With a grey interior. That smells like fetid dog, thanks to my fetid dog.

Unlike my father, who collects cars like Dinky toys, I treat my cars with what can only be called disrespect. I drive them too fast, service them too infrequently (except for the brakes and tires and squeegee-juice for the bugs and/or freezing rain). I can’t remember the last time I washed the Mom-mobile. I keep forgetting to, and then before I know it, it rains. Problem solved.

It has always been thus, as the saying goes. My first car, a Ford Torino station wagon, was as big as a double-decker bus and chock-full of the things I used to need, back when I was 19. In short, it was usually chock-full of friends and cases of beer being carted from party to party. When the Ford’s stereo croaked, I substituted a battery-operated tape deck balanced on the dashboard. The strains of the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack would whisper from its  little speaker, as my girlfriends and I performed endless Yonge Street Cruises.

The Mom-mobile now boasts some 225,000 kilometers, and has been through a transmission, a radiator, multiple sets of tires, and one set of twins from ages 8 to 18. Now it is occupied mostly by myself and my big black dog, who usually rides shotgun, thereby rendering the front passenger seat a risky sitting proposition for any subsequent riders.

About a month ago, in a fit of financial optimism, I considered replacing the old bucket of bolts. Spontaneously I visited the local Toyota dealer. The saleswoman was supermodel-beautiful and knew more about cars than Henry Ford. She used words I’d never heard before and showed me parts of the car that I should clearly be impressed by. We went for a test drive. It was only when I realized this car would cost me $500 a month – $500 more a month than the Mom-mobile was costing – that I rethought my spontaneity. Did I really need to buy something, which only fundamentally differed from my loyal mini-van, in that it wasn’t full of dog hair and personal effects?

So the Mom-mobile is still with me, rattling as it rolls along, its brakes groaning, its doors loosing a rusty wail when opened. But if you and I ever go out for coffee, trust me – let’s take your car. Especially if you’re wearing white.