Evidence of meeting #96 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was vehicle.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

David Ticoll  Distinguished Senior Fellow, Innovation Policy Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, As an Individual
Ian Jack  Managing Director, Communications and Government Relations, Canadian Automobile Association
Barrie Kirk  Executive Director, Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence
Mark Nantais  President, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association
Catherine Kargas  Chair, Electric Mobility Canada
Kent Rathwell  Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Sun Country Highway Ltd.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Mr. Aubin is next.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Gentlemen, thank you for being with us.

After listening to you, I realize two things. First, we are loud and clear on how we must stop undertaking studies, and start taking action. Though it also seems that Canada is falling slightly behind—more than slightly, actually—on this issue.

I would like to come back to you, Mr. Kirk, but the other witnesses can also join in.

If it were created, what specificity would the Canadian institute contribute that hasn't already been contributed by the other institutes that have a head start on us? Would this specificity be related to the Canadian climate, for example?

4:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence

Barrie Kirk

My testimony to the Senate committee pointed out a metaphor. I think the Canadian federal government is doing a wonderful job on the innovation and research and development file. ISED is doing a wonderful job. That, to me, says the federal government has its foot on the gas pedal. However, Transport Canada is very focused on safety, as it should be, almost to the point of inertia, and that is acting as a brake. I see the federal government trying to move ahead in this field, this space, with one foot on the gas pedal and one foot on the brake. That metaphor made its way into the Senate report. It wasn't attributed to me, but that was my testimony. I think the one thing this institute would do is bring together the policy units from Transport Canada and ISED into one group and break down the silos so that we get a far more balanced policy for the future, one that balances innovation and safety.

4:05 p.m.

Distinguished Senior Fellow, Innovation Policy Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, As an Individual

David Ticoll

I slightly differ with my colleague Mr. Kirk on this point. I do believe that from the perspective of technology development, we've leapt ahead way further than we were even a year ago when we were testifying in front of the Senate. From that perspective, our AV sector is doing very, very well. What we need to do as a society is figure out what this means for the Canada of the 21st century. What kind of a country are we going to have? How are our cities going to work? What about this complex new data issue? How are we going to manage around that?

I believe this requires consultation and engagement, which would perhaps be driven by TC and ISED, but it requires a much broader set of stakeholders to become engaged in it. That would be a way also to start defining criteria for investment around city-building that would reflect the national consensus about what kinds of cities we want that are enabled by information and information technologies.

4:05 p.m.

Managing Director, Communications and Government Relations, Canadian Automobile Association

Ian Jack

Very quickly, I'll differ slightly with my colleagues. We don't get too caught up on machinery issues at CAA. I think that the issue, as I said in response to an earlier question, absolutely needs to be elevated by the government, whether that continues to be a joint committee of bureaucrats or a separate institute. However it's done, I wouldn't want to spend six months or a year having government try to figure that out and then another year and a half trying to get a contract for a photocopier before they start doing any work. I think the work needs to get going. It needs to be elevated. I'm hoping that's the message the committee will send forward.

If they decide to move on that institute, we won't complain about that. We'll be fine with that, but let's get moving with the issue and elevate it one way or the other, please.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Kirk, I will return to the example of air bags.

When we studied Bill S-2, we expressed the opinion that new technologies should at the very least have the same, if not higher, safety standards as those established for conventional vehicles.

You asked the following question: If we remove the steering wheel, where will we put the air bag? Is it possible that air bags will no longer be needed? If so, is it the right approach to tell the government that we should be making sure that the new technologies are at the very least as safe as the old ones, if not safer? Or is it that these new technologies simply cannot be compared with the old ones?

4:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence

Barrie Kirk

I'll make two quick points, as I'm conscious of the time, Madam Chair.

One is that I did not suggest, with respect, that we make the cars less safe. What GM is asking for in the U.S., which I support, is making both front seats with the same level of safety, the same number of air bags, as the passenger seat has at the moment.

In terms of overall safety, a while back we did a joint report with the Conference Board of Canada, and we predicted that with full deployment of AVs and CVs, we could in fact eliminate 80% of the collisions, traffic deaths, and injuries. That's a big step forward. I think most people agree that AVs and computers will be much safer than human drivers.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Time is up.

Go ahead, Monsieur Iacono.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you for coming.

We have modern airliners capable of flying themselves, yet they still have at least a two-person crew on board. Is it reasonable, is it responsible, is it healthy, is it safe to have cars, trucks, or any motor vehicles driving themselves autonomously with no driver on board? Is this what you're suggesting? Why?

4:10 p.m.

Distinguished Senior Fellow, Innovation Policy Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, As an Individual

David Ticoll

A driverless car is a much more complicated problem than a driverless airplane, because there's not a lot of traffic up there in the air. You're asking a very good question, and that's why it's going to take a very long time before we get to the point where, on the major streets of our cities, we're going to see these cars driving around willy-nilly. We'll probably take quite a number of years, maybe 20 to 25 or something of that nature.

In the meantime, what I believe will happen will be like what Google is doing right now with cars in a suburb of Tempe, Arizona. It's a very flat area, and there's not a lot of weather. The streets are big and wide, and they're just trying it out. They're being extremely conservative about how they roll this technology out.

The way that's likely to happen in Canada, where we have the additional weather factors to consider, is that we will see it initially in very limited areas that are highly geographically bounded, where the vehicles have a lot of information about the 3-D mapping of the streets down to the millimetre level, or at least the sub-centimetre level. It's going to take time.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you.

Mr. Jack, would you like to add something to that?

4:10 p.m.

Managing Director, Communications and Government Relations, Canadian Automobile Association

Ian Jack

Sure. We believe that in the long term, autonomous vehicles will be safer. One of the questions that nobody has an answer to today is how long this adoption will take, and I would agree with my colleagues that it will be longer rather than shorter. Our view, as we indicated in our remarks, is that it's not so much because of the automotive technology; it's because of all the surrounding infrastructure that's going to have to be adapted as well. By the time these are widespread, I think you and I will be happy with them, because we'll be in an old folk's home and we'll have some mobility as a result of them.

Absolutely, in the shorter term, are there risks? Yes. That's one of the reasons government needs to be involved in a regulatory capacity, just as it is now with all other vehicles.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Well, I'm glad that you both made interesting comments in answering one of your questions, which was about why it is taking so long. One, the infrastructure's not all there, so we have to worry about the infrastructure before putting cars on the road that are going to drive themselves; and two, it's taking a very long time because with a car on the road, there's a lot of traffic. It's not the same as having a plane flying in the air. That explains why it's taking so long.

I have another question.

Mr. Ticoll, I've read your 2015 report on the issue with a lot of interest. The report focuses on Toronto, but some of its findings can be applied to places such as the Greater Montreal area, especially concerning connected and intelligent infrastructure, which is the fundamental issue.

Can you shed some light on how the type of infrastructure needed to eventually support autonomous vehicles would operate?

4:15 p.m.

Distinguished Senior Fellow, Innovation Policy Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, As an Individual

David Ticoll

Some autonomous vehicle designers and manufacturers, such as Waymo, have said they are designing their vehicles on the assumption that eventually there will be no supporting infrastructure. They must assume that if their vehicle can actually go anywhere—which is the long-term goal—they can't rely on the availability of infrastructure that will support them.

Therefore, if Canada believes, and if you believe as part of our government, that it's desirable for Canada, from the perspective of both industry development and urban innovation, to move more quickly, then it's quite likely that investing in intelligent infrastructure would be a good idea.

We call these “connected and autonomous vehicles”, so that's the “connected” part, and there are two kinds of things we can put in. The first is a lot of smart devices that the vehicle can communicate with that are part of the streets—the traffic lights, other cars, and so on. Those are all electronic. The second is road markings, which are physical technologies.

The City of Montreal, which is being very innovative these days in bike infrastructure, is rethinking how its streets work and has a wonderful opportunity. There is also the artificial intelligence community there, and so on. That would be a great place to start innovating, because there's a lot of transformation happening in the streets already.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'll give the rest of my time to Mr. Sikand.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

David, you mentioned that article, and when I saw it, I believe there was a spotter in the vehicle. I'm not sure what they're called—

4:15 p.m.

Distinguished Senior Fellow, Innovation Policy Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, As an Individual

David Ticoll

Safety driver.

March 26th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

I believe they hit somebody on a bicycle.

I represent a GTA riding and I would love to see AV development in the riding because I have the third-largest transportation system in Ontario and we have a lot of congestion there. I would welcome further comment on the implications of such accidents in AV development.

4:15 p.m.

Distinguished Senior Fellow, Innovation Policy Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, As an Individual

David Ticoll

It's interesting because, as I said at the beginning, I believe that the technology is there to prevent an accident of this type from occurring. The visual sensors are present, the computer capabilities are present to interpret that data, the ability to brake the vehicle is present, and they all work together.

Another manufacturer—I'm not going to name any names—but another designer of CAV technology said they've tested against precisely this scenario dozens of times with all kinds of crazy ways of possibly having this accident, and they're pretty confident that if it had been them, this would not have happened, so it sounds as if there was some kind of failure.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

We have to move on.

Mr. Hardie, I've used up one of your minutes in order to get that question answered.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Really?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Sorry about that.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I have a couple of comments.

We have to have a very holistic view. What about the employment of drivers? From years with the Insurance Corporation of B.C. and dealing with traffic safety, especially speeding, we know that it's the variance in operating attributes, if you will, that can cause all kinds of traffic conflicts. What about the transition period, when you have three-quarters of the people still driving cars and the other quarter autonomous? I'll leave you to think about that one.

I want to challenge some of your assumptions.

When I was a kid, they delivered milk to my front door by horse, believe it or not. I'm that old. Well, guess what, guys? They're delivering groceries again. Certainly if I look at Metro Vancouver, I see that the design of that city is meant to reduce the need to move around. Are you trying to come up with new technology that might be buggy-whipped by the time it's ready to go if people don't need to do as much travelling around?

The other issue is that driving is not a utilitarian function. People like to drive. They socialize in the car. They do many other things over and above simply getting from point A to point B. Would you consider mandating that people can't drive their cars anymore in order to reduce traffic conflicts?

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence

Barrie Kirk

That's a good question.

In terms of resistance, I have two thoughts.

First of all is infrastructure. David made the right comment that there are two different kinds of infrastructure. Physical infrastructure is one, and the first commandment over AVs, to my way of thinking, is “thou shalt have no special physical infrastructure”. AVs will have the sensors, software, and artificial intelligence to drive on the same roads as humans do. No government, no combination of governments, can afford to upgrade all of the infrastructure in time for the arrival of AVs.

The second commandment of infrastructure, as far as AVs are concerned, is that once we have enough AVs in use, we can optimize the infrastructure. There's a study out of Texas that shows—

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Excuse me, sir, but I'd like to get the others' reflections on this in the time available to us.