Public transit is the safest mode of transportation in Canada carrying over 2 billion passengers per year. Fully automated trains and bus networks are the future of safe public transportation in the Lower Mainland. However, autonomous fleets, such as Waymo, may have already hastened in a new era. An era of driverless ride sharing.
Fleet of Driverless Transit Vehicles
To help prepare for the introduction of automated vehicles Transport Canada launched a program to advance automated transportation . On April 23, 2019 Google affiliate Waymo announced it will use a factory in Detroit to create self-driving vehicles. Waymo intends hire hundred’s of engineers from Magna International Inc. to perform the system integration. Magna is based in Ontario. Autonomous ride sharing fleets may then be on Ontario roads. The raise of ride sharing could mean the decline of car ownership.
The BC NDP appear to have done little to encourage the autonomous vehicle industry. There was no provision for smart roadway infrastructure(SRI) in the last provincial budget. The NDP have created a government dependency on state run auto insurance. As a result, BC is currently lagging behind when it comes to the use of autonomous fleet vehicles and self-driving technology.
Liability for Injury Compensation
With the human driver removed from the equation, a strict liability tort system would be preferable. However, our current government is moving toward a more strict no fault system. With autonomous ride sharing, evidence will be controlled by manufacturers not passengers. The shift to a driver based auto system will prove to be a big misstep if ride sharing continues.
Tort compensation puts the human first. An evolution back to tort system will ensure BC citizens are fully compensated when injured in a car accident. Period. Moving away from an arbitrary limit on compensation is inevitable if we value human life.
Smart Roadway Infrastructure
The BC Ministry of Transportation has no program to create smart roadway infrastructure for self-driving cars. Instead the Ministry has enhanced existing pavement marking service agreements. 20% more lines will be painted; increased reflection and visibility at night; and thicker paint for longer-lasting pavement markings. It does not appear consultation was made with the autonomous vehicle industry for use of driverless transit.
If this sounds like science fiction, think again. Singapore is currently testing a self-driving shuttle that can carry 80 people. They expect fleets of autonomous transit vehicles starting in 2022. New York will begin testing autonomous shuttles this year. Also, in China, pony.ai has started a test project for an autonomous ride sharing fleet within a geo-fenced area.