Thank you very much, Chair and committee members. Thank you for your interest in the subject, which is a very important one to over six million CAA members across the country. Our main issue is on the non-profit public affairs side of our operation, including road safety, the environment, mobility, infrastructure, consumer protection, and the future of the automobile, which is what brings us here today, among other things.
First of all, it's important to know that connected vehicles are already on our roads, and that their presence is growing every year in Canada. For example, most new vehicles offer a GPS connection via an internal antenna. Moreover, various safety features, such as lane support systems and automatic parking assist systems, allow on-board computers to know what's going on outside, and take control of the vehicle, even if it is for just a few seconds.
Most of us are familiar with the image of the Google car, and we think of that when we think of autonomous vehicles. It looks like a different species. The reality is more likely to be evolutionary, however, than revolutionary. Slowly features are being added that, taken together, are leading down the path to full autonomy.
To us, the development of the technology needed for fully autonomous vehicles is inevitable. There are at least three big questions outstanding, however.
The first is how quickly the environment outside the vehicle will be able to evolve to accommodate the technology. All levels of government will have to adapt regulations for this new world and, to some extent, change the way they spend on infrastructure. One quick example is insurance legislation, which universally speaks of persons. Where will liability rest in this new world? It’s quite possible to arrive at an answer, but the topic will have to be debated and legislation created.
The second concern, which is related to the first, is how soon autonomous vehicles will become commonplace on our roads. Did you know that all the vehicles in use today could be completely different in 20 years? It's impossible to be sure of it, but we believe that autonomous vehicles will be dominating the market between 2025 or 2040. All the more reason to start preparing as soon as possible.
There is expert consensus, however, on the fact that AVs will kill fewer people than human drivers and that AVs should extend personal mobility to many, such as the elderly, who cannot drive today. For these reasons, CAA supports the responsible development of autonomous vehicle technologies.
The third major concern we have at the Canadian Automobile Association is the control over the huge amounts of personal data that will be collected by connected and autonomous vehicles about the drivers.
Vehicles are becoming smart phones on wheels. It's almost trite to say so today. Your vehicle will soon, if it doesn’t already, know as much or more about your movements, likes, and dislikes as anyone in your life, even your spouse, unless you drive everywhere with them. CAA has long held that vehicle owners should be informed about what data is being collected and be able, within reasonable limits, to choose with whom they share it. It must not be a take-it-or-leave-it approach that forces the owner to abandon all rights to privacy in order to enjoy the benefits of in-car technology.
This is not a theoretical concern. In an early 2017 CAA national opinion poll, 49% of Canadians said that they were not aware of the range of data being collected by their vehicle today. When it comes to sharing of that vehicle data, nearly 90% of Canadians agreed that the consumer should decide who gets access to their vehicle data. Further, in a late 2017 national poll, 77% of Canadians said they were not aware that they had consented to the collection and use of their private data when they purchased their vehicle.
Illustrating that the issue of privacy of data in connected vehicles exists today, not as a theoretical construct for 10 years from now, one in three Canadians polled who have rented a car or used a car-sharing vehicle have found a previous user’s personal information still in the vehicle’s system.
According to this same survey, 81% of Canadians believe that clear rules must be applied to protect the personal data collected by these vehicles.
CAA participated in the Senate’s recent AV study, and we welcomed the final report, which was released in January 2018. The findings echoed CAA's position on this file, recommending that “Canadians should have control over their personal information.” The report went on to recommend that “Transport Canada bring together relevant stakeholders—governments, automakers, and consumers—to develop a connected car framework, with privacy protection as one of its key drivers.”
These discussions have not been happening to date. We hope this committee will agree that these issues need to be addressed and endorse this recommendation.
In conclusion, even if some challenges must be addressed, it is obvious that connected and autonomous vehicles will provide many benefits over the years. However, now is the time to join the discussion, strategically speaking, so that governments can contribute to the responsible development of these innovative technologies.
CAA looks forward to continuing to represent the consumer interest on this important topic. We thank you for your invitation to speak to you today.
Thank you, Madam Chair.