Canada Plans for the Disruption of Automated Vehicles

Barrie Kirk

Barrie Kirk, co-founder and executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE), reports from last week’s Toronto conference — Automated Vehicles: Planning the Next Disruptive Technology.

The Automated Vehicles: Planning the Next Disruptive Technology conference was organized by the Conference Board of Canada and attracted a large number of attendees from all levels of government, the private sector and academia.

Highlights included:

  • I had the opportunity to give the keynote address opening the conference. I gave an overview of just what automated vehicles will mean — huge, disruptive changes to our lives, society and the economy. Our cities and our world will look very different in 2030 compared to today. We need this to be actively managed by all levels of government to maximize the benefits to everybody in the 21st century.
  • Antoine Belaieff of Metrolinx, a public transportation agency in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, spoke about the benefits of AVs for greater mobility, safety, lowering costs, and the opportunities to re-invent trucking and goods movement.
  • Stephen Buckley of the City of Toronto described how AVs can be used to build better cities. He asked: “How do we harness AVs to give us the city we want?”
  • John Eddy of ARUP suggested a government policy of no new lane miles.
  • Antonio Gomex-Palacio of DIALOG described the real opportunities for re-designing cities if we can eliminate personal car ownership. For example, condos are now being built in Toronto without parking.
  • A very interesting session addressed data ownership and data privacy. A key battle is between the different stakeholders who all want to own the data generated by AVs. Also, there is no such thing as 100 percent security of data and this will be an ongoing issue. Another area of concern is “function creep” in which data is collected for one purpose and is then used for something else. This is an area where we need government intervention and standards because, clearly, the market is not addressing this.
  • Karlyn Stanley of Rand Corp. discussed the similarities between data from smartphones and that from AVs and connected vehicles. From a data perspective, an AV is a smartphone on wheels. The auto industry lacks a consensus on protecting data generated by cars. This is made worse by consumers’ willingness to trade personal data to obtain benefits, which is the case with Usage Based Insurance (UBI).
  • Sean Rathwell with Dillon Consulting reported on a recent series of discussions with municipalities. The conclusion is that municipalities are not prepared for the arrival of AVs. Similarly, the transit agencies will be reactive and wait for the technology. Sean also said that current traffic modelling tools are not adequate for analyzing traffic in the AV era.
  • Yves Provencher of PIT Group, in a session of goods movement, described platooning trials in the US and Europe and the work being done by Daimler, Peterbilt and others to develop autonomous trucks. One concept that Yves described is a motorized trailer that could join up with other, similar trailers to form a convoy.

Although Canada has, unfortunately, been lagging behind the U.S. in its preparations for automated vehicles, the overall conclusion from the large number of attendees and the level of interest is that the momentum is building at many different levels.

Linked to this, Canada’s new federal government is developing a new, larger innovation agenda that will be announced in the fall, and the recent budget includes funds for Transport Canada to develop a federal regulatory framework for AVs. It is clear that Canada will be far more pro-active in the AV space in the months and years ahead.

Image by ARUP.

D20 Stock Index vs Dow Jones

Google Props Up Drifting Driverless Stock Index

Driverless Transportation

Propped up by Google (GOOG), the Driverless Transportation (D20) Stock Index gained 0.3 percent last week to finish up 0.47 points at 153.73. Buoyed by the Alphabet announcement, Google added $21.82 and its stock closed at $657.12 on Friday. Without Google’s rise, the D20 Index would have lost 1.71 points, or 1.1 percent. Google’s 3.4 percent gain was tops in the D20 which saw 12 losers and eight gainers last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, with a 0.6 percent gain, and the S&P 500, with a 0.7 percent gain, outperformed the D20.

The recent devaluation in the Chinese currency, the Yuan, has hurt the lucrative Chinese market for the luxury German automakers. Daimler (DDAIF), owner of the Mercedes-Benz brand, lost 6.3 percent of its value and finished the week down $5.79 to $86.21. Volkswagen (VLKPY), owner of the prestigious Audi brand, lost $1.60, or 3.9 percent, to end the week at $39.94. The French parts maker Valeo SA (VLEEY) also seemed to be affected by the devaluation. Its ADR shares lost 6.7 percent of their value to close the week at $65.30. Further devaluations of the Yuan could rattle the larger markets and negatively affect the D20 Index.

Visit the Driverless Transportation D20 Stock Index page to learn more about it and its component stocks.

Autonomous Vehicles — Much More Efficient, Just as Many Sold

Burney Simpson

Automakers can breathe a sigh of relief.

According to a new study, a U.S. filled with fully-autonomous driverless vehicles could see a huge drop in the number of vehicles per household but there will be no corresponding decline in the total number of vehicles sold.

“While each household would potentially own fewer vehicles, they would put significantly more miles on the vehicle(s) that they do own. So households might trade owning fewer vehicles for needing to replace them much more often,” Brandon Schoettle, co-author with Michael Sivak of “Potential Impact of Self-Driving Vehicles on Household Vehicle Demand and Usage,” writes to Driverless Transportation in an email.

These driverless vehicles are defined as Full Self-Driving Automation (Level 4) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency says a Level 4 vehicle “perform(s) all safety-critical driving functions and monitor(s) roadway conditions for an entire trip.” The agency categorizes vehicles as Level 0 to Level 4 depending on their autonomous capabilities, with 4 as the highest.

Once Level 4 vehicles are widely available the average number of vehicles-per-household would drop 43 percent, from today’s 2.1 to 1.2, according to Schoettle and Sivak, researchers with the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan.

That’s because many households would purchase a single Level 4 vehicle to replace multiple cars without driverless capability, treating their high-tech cars as ‘return-to-home’ vehicles.

Theoretically, these households only use a vehicle when necessary and it then drives itself home, instead of sitting parked for most of the day. For example, the driverless car drops off the commuter in a household at a public transit station around 8 a.m., and the vehicle returns home. Other household members use it twice during the day. Around 5 p.m., the vehicle drives itself back to the station to pick up the commuter for the return trip home.

The researcher’s analysis of the 2009 National Household Travel Survey from the U.S. Department of Transportation found that nearly 84 percent of household trips today do not overlap with other household trips. This suggests that only 16 percent of American households actually need to use two or more cars at the same time.

In this future-world where Level 4 cars are commonplace, households will run the vehicle for more hours-per-day and for more miles-per-year. This “would result in a 75 percent increase in individual vehicle usage” from 11,661 to 20,406 annual miles per vehicle, the report finds.

That would shorten vehicle lifespan from today’s average of more than 11 years to 6.5 years. That means households will need to replace their vehicle more often.

In addition, “(t)here is also the potential for non-drivers to become self-driving vehicle users, which would lead to more vehicles being purchased and/or more annual miles per vehicle,” notes Schoettle. “It could be the case that these forces combine to have only a minor impact on annual vehicle sales.”

The report suggests that further study is necessary, and acknowledges that many human factors are not taken into account in its conclusions. For instance, many consumers don’t want to share vehicles, and their commuter example assumes there is a place where people never miss trains that always run on time.

For the auto OEMs this report seems to offer pros and cons. On the one hand, consumers will demand tougher vehicles with more capabilities. On the other, that sounds like a good reason to raise prices.


University of Michigan Sustainable Worldwide Transportation

The study, Potential Impact of Self-Driving Vehicles on Household Vehicle Demand and Usage has been released by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, sponsored by the University of Michigan Sustainable Worldwide Transportation. The study is by Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak.

As noted in the abstract, the report presents an analysis of the potential for reduced vehicle ownership within households based on sharing of completely self-driving vehicles that employ a “return-to-home” mode, acting as a form of shared family or household vehicle. An examination of the latest U.S. National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) data shows a general lack of trip overlap between drivers within a majority of households, opening up the possibility for a significant reduction in average vehicle ownership per household based on vehicle sharing.

Click here to read an abstract of the study. Please contact Michael Sivak at for a copy of the full report.



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