Senate report calls for national coordinated strategy to advance AV/CV in Canada

Veronica Silva
February 13, 2018

KMPG report gives top scores to southern Ontario for readiness in AV

A Senate report calls for a coordinated national strategy to ensure that Canada reaps the benefits from technologies underpinning automated and connected vehicles (AV/CV). The report, by the Standing Senate Committee on Transportation and Communications, says technologies for AV and CV are already a reality, yet Canada “is ill-prepared for their arrival.”

The committee report is a result of consultations and fact-finding missions with researchers and experts in AV and CV. The committee says it undertook to study AV and CV technologies to understand the impact of these on Canada and to identify possible regulatory and technical issues related to deployment.

The report contains 16 recommendations, including two around R&D. The recommendations generally urge various government agencies “to work with innovators to lay the groundwork for policy that will encourage the responsible development of this technology.” In particular, “federal leadership is required to ensure the country is ready for this period of rapid technological change.”

A coordinate strategy is called for because the senate report notes that in some instances, there are conflicting government priorities. For example, while Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada is trying to encourage R&D, Transport Canada is more concerned about vehicle safety. The senate report says that with harmonized policies, Canada can continue to attract developers while safety guidelines will continue to protect Canadians. The report also calls for coordinated strategies among federal, provincial and municipal governments.

The report notes that there are already advances in AV and CV technologies even as research projects continue. Early generations of AV and CV are already hitting the road. This can be a boon or bane. For example, while self-driving cars can help mitigate road accidents, they could also lead to job losses and risks to personal security and privacy.

“Senators believe Canada must start preparing for the arrival of this technology now to ensure the country is ready for this upcoming period of technological change,” the report reads.

The report also recognizes that technologies and expertise in automotive technologies, information technology and artificial intelligence are already available in Canada, particularly along the Windsor ON to Montreal QC corridor. And because of these, investors are choosing Canada as a destination site.

The report notes that while the federal government has already invested in R&D around AV and CV, there is still much to be done so that the country doesn’t’ lag behind other countries. The report cites witness accounts pointing to the Motor Vehicle Test Centre in Blainville, QC as a facility needing further government investments to be able to evaluate systems related to AV and CV. The report also notes a written brief by Franck N’Diaye Bonny, director general of the Motor Vehicle Test and Research Centre, suggesting that the MVTC is an ideal site for a new Innovative and Intelligent Mobility Research and Test Centre.

Recommendation #12: The Government of Canada increase its investment in the R&D of automated and connected vehicles, through a new innovative and intelligent Mobility Research and Test Centre, to be located at the existing Motor Vehicle Test Centre. In addition to ensuring that these vehicles are tested in a mix of urban, rural and cold environments, particular consideration should also be given to projects focused on cybersecurity and privacy.

The committee recommends that AVs and CVs be tested in both rural and urban areas and in different weather conditions. Along with these, the report recommends further research on vehicle technologies, such as cybersecurity and privacy.

The report also urges government to do more to ensure that promising ongoing projects remain funded so that they can continue with their research. For example, one federally funded research network on advanced automotive R&D was required to wind down per funding guidelines even though it provided a good opportunity for researches and industry to work together and it was “very efficient,” according to one of the founding researchers.

AUTO21 was a Networks of Centres of Excellence which was funded from 2001 to 2016. Dr Denis Gingras of the Laboratory on Intelligent Vehicles, Univ of Sherbrooke, and co-founder of AUTO21 told the senate committee that he and co-founder Dr Peter Frise at the Univ of Windsor had been studying intelligent systems and sensors, and autonomous vehicles since 2000, long before Google demonstrated self-driving cars in 2009.

But Dr Gingras said the AUTO21 network “died” in 2016 because “one of the basic rules (of the NCE program) is that, after 14 years, the network is dead. We kill those programs after 14 years.” “I think this is some kind of rule that we need to change in the NCE program,” Dr Gingras told the committee.

According to NCE guidelines of 2015, “networks approaching the end of a funding through the NCE program must implement a plan to ensure the smooth transition or winding down of activities.”

Recommendation #13: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada work with Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada (NCE) to reconsider the rule requiring that these networks close down at the end of NCE program funding.

The report calls on the federal government to reconsider its rules requiring research networks to close down.

In response to this recommendation, NCE associate vice-president Jean Saint-Vil tells RE$EARCH MONEY that “networks and their board of directors can choose to continue their activities once NCE funding has expired should they have other financing sources. In fact, we have some examples among NCE alumni networks who have continued some level of activity.”

Saint-Vil adds that the NCE recently introduced a new competition for new and established networks to vie for new funding.

“Established networks are defined as NCE networks who have been awarded NCE funds for all available funding cycles (i.e. two seven-year cycles or three five-year cycles), and whose final NCE funding term has ended or will end by the anticipated release date of new funds (March 31, 2019). As such, NCE alumni networks have the opportunity to compete for further funding,” adds Saint-Vil. “As concerns the Automotive sector in particular, the AUTO21 NCE was awarded $81.1M from the NCE Program, between 2001 to 2016.”

Senator David Tkachuk, chair of the committee, said “This study should serve as a roadmap for the government. It is essential for Canada to be well-prepared for the fast-approaching future of transportation.”

The senate report states: “It is not a matter of if but of when more sophisticated automated and connected vehicles will arrive on Canadian roads.”

Senators said they will continue to push the government to act on their recommendations.

KPMG report: Rank 7

The senate report comes on the heels of a global report saying that Canada could take the lead in autonomous vehicles (AV). A few days before the senate report was released, KPMG International released a global report titled Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI) which ranks countries according to their progress and capacity for adapting AV technology.

The index ranks Canada seventh among countries that are ready for AV. In the top three are the Netherlands, Singapore and the US. Rounding up the top 10 are Sweden, the UK, Germany, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand.

The report takes note of southern Ontario’s “perfect” ecosystem for research and training. Canada earned top scores for industry partnerships and high scores for R&D hubs and AV technology company headquarters.

"Southern Ontario has a perfect ecosystem to support AV research and testing," says Gary Webster, National Leader, Infrastructure, KPMG Canada. "It is the fourth largest exporter of vehicles in the world, with manufacturing facilities for GM, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, Toyota, Honda and their supply chains. Its Waterloo-Toronto Innovation Corridor includes research universities and technology companies, convincing Uber and General Motors to move jobs there."

The report notes that the Ontario government has been funding pilot studies on AV and has issued permits for AV testing on public roads. However, the report also notes that Canada has “very few patents” in AV technology.

Similar to the Senate report, the KPMG report calls for action by way of planning for the future now because there’s no question that autonomous vehicles are going to be ubiquitous. “It is not a question of if, but when, AVs becomes ubiquitous," said Richard Threlfall, global head of public transport, KPMG International.



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