Transport Minister: Feds to Play Role in Facilitating Autonomous Vehicles

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says Canada is on the brink of an automotive revolution not seen since the introduction of the automobile – and the federal government has a vital role in ushering in the technology safely while mitigating disruption.

Speaking at Michelin’s Movin’ On conference on mobility and sustainability, Garneau pointed out not everyone was happy about the arrival of cars in this country. As Truck News reports, Garneau recalled how in P.E.I., cars were initially banned, and eventually allowed to operate on only Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

In the early 1900s, government played a role in facilitating automobiles.

“Roads had to be paved, parking spaces created, traffic laws enacted and drivers educated to take more care,” Garneau said of those early days. “The automobile brought us an unprecedented degree of freedom, comfort and convenience.”

Likewise, government must now play a role in accommodating autonomous vehicles and similar fear today over autonomous vehicles must be overcome.

Garneau acknowledged, “Realistically, these new vehicles will bring new challenges, including some we can’t even see clearly right now. For example, how will we manage the transition from non-automated to fully-automated vehicles when both types of cars are on the roads? It will be as confusing as the time when horse-drawn carriages and early automobiles competed for the right of way.”

Garneau said autonomous vehicles will have to be able to respond to unforeseen circumstances, such as cargo falling on the road or wildlife on the highway.

“What is government’s role in all this?” Garneau queried. “It is our duty to have a modern and efficient road system which will safety integrate novel technologies.”

To this end, Garneau said the feds have already presented a strategic plan for the future of transportation, dubbed Transport 2030. It is also tasking Transport Canada with updating regulations and infrastructure to accommodate autonomous vehicles and new transport technologies.

The government has also invested $1.26 billion into a five-year strategic innovation fund.

Among these emerging technologies Garneau touched on, was truck platooning, which he said has the potential to reduce fuel consumption by up to 14%.

Garneau also said the federal government, along with its provincial and territorial counterparts, will do more to promote the use of zero emissions vehicles.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance is paying close attention to the autonomous vehicle market. It is in the process of establishing an industry advisory committee which will work with governments and stakeholder on safety and infrastructure design frameworks for various levels of autonomous vehicles.

It is of CTA’s opinion that other than in very specialized sectors, autonomous vehicles will not truly replace the need for drivers. While their roles may change in the coming years, the demand for drivers in various capacities will remain high for decades.

Full Truck News story here.

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