THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATIONS
OTTAWA, Wednesday, September 27, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met this day at 6:47 p.m. to continue its study on the regulatory and technical issues related to the deployment of connected and automated vehicles.
Senator Dennis Dawson (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, this evening the committee is continuing its study of connected and automated vehicles.
We have two witnesses tonight from the United States appearing by teleconference. In the first part of this meeting, I would like to welcome Matthew Clark, Policy Advisor at the Office of the Governor of Arizona. Mr. Clark, start with your comments, and my colleagues will be asking you questions after. Thank you.
Matthew Clark, Policy Advisor, Office of the Governor of Arizona, United States: Good evening and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. As mentioned, I am the Policy Advisor to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on transportation and local government. In addition, I’m also the chair of the governor’s self-driving oversight committee. I am pleased to share Arizona’s philosophy of engagement with the technology of autonomous vehicles and to tout our accomplishments over the past year and a half.
To begin with, we should review the reasons why states like Arizona are getting involved in the development of autonomous vehicles. The former leader of the Google/Waymo self-driving car project said it best when he said the human driver is the most unreliable component of an automobile. He is absolutely and entirely 100 per cent correct: Humans cause crashes and fatalities that are not caused by mechanical error but rather by human error.
From the state government perspective, we can require a driver to demonstrate basic driving skills, we can provide a licensed driver with reliable and safe roadway systems with proper signage, lane markings and appropriate pavement, and we can even have law enforcement personnel cite people for poor driving behaviour, but unfortunately we cannot magically reach into the front seat and take the wheel from a bad driver.
Unfortunately, these sobering crash statistics tell the story. Human error causes about 95 per cent of crashes around the world. In the U.S., over the past several years, we have experienced about 35,000 fatalities annually from automobile crashes. Arizona experienced 962 fatalities in 2016, which was a 7.3 per cent increase from 2015. We believe that that is not acceptable for Arizona or for any state.
For technology companies like Google, the solution is simple: have a computer drive the car. We as a state share the optimism of those technology developers that autonomous vehicles will transform our society for the better. We see these improvements in two ways. The first is safety. At the most basic level, a computer will not drive drunk, drowsy, drugged or, we assume, dangerously. Autonomous vehicles would therefore mitigate two of the top three causes of crashes in the state of Arizona, those being speeding and impairment.
In addition, autonomous vehicles will also provide increased mobility. They will offer improvement in traffic flow, expand solo transportation to several more demographics, including the disabled and blind and senior citizens, and offers economic development opportunities through ride-sharing and vehicles for hire. We believe companies like Uber and Lyft will grow in co-operation with this type of technology, changing the future of transportation moving forward.
Now that the development of autonomous vehicles is in full swing, how many states are getting involved? Arizona is on the vanguard as one of 24 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that have performed action on autonomous vehicles. In the state of Arizona, we have issued an executive order that deals with this technology and how to regulate it. However, before we look at the details of the executive order, it’s important to look at Arizona’s approach to business development as well as our embrace of technology.
Our vision is for Arizona to be the number one state in which to live, work, play, recreate, retire, visit, do business and get an education. We seek the highest possible quality of life, and our common purpose is to advance that priority for generations to come. We feel we do so by operating at the speed of business.
With autonomous vehicle development, Arizona is focused on three principles of engagement. The first is getting rid of burdensome regulations. We want to ensure outdated regulations are not slowing us down and we do not believe in looking to regulate just for the sake of regulation. The second is that we want to keep our state open for business. We have our arms wide open for businesses that seek to achieve the same high quality of life that the Arizona state government seeks to provide. Finally, we look to embrace new technology. The twenty-first century has been all about technology making our lives safer and more enjoyable. We don’t shrink from technology; we embrace it.
So considering those principles, it’s no surprise that on August 25, 2015, Governor Ducey signed his executive order on self-driving vehicle testing and piloting in the state of Arizona. The order establishes the guidelines to embrace the new technologies and support testing relating to autonomous vehicles; keep Arizona open for business to autonomous vehicle technology developers; and finally to establish rules that ensure safety of the travelling public without burdensome regulation.
The executive order also creates the most supportive environment possible while also promoting public safety. The operators of test vehicles must be licenced to operate a motor vehicle, like any other driver on the road, and must submit proof of financial responsibility, like any other driver on the road.
Arizona’s model has been very successful in engaging the state in the research and development of autonomous vehicles. Here are but a few examples.
In April 2016, Google subsidiary Waymo started testing self-driving vehicles in the Phoenix metropolitan area. In April of this year, Waymo introduced the early rider program in Phoenix. This will allow people to ride in Waymo minivan test vehicles in their daily lives to learn about the self-driving technology vehicle experience.
The second is Ford, which is conducting extensive self-driving vehicle testing at their proving grounds in Wittmann, Arizona, which is located about 40 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix. Ford also achieved a first in Arizona in the successful operation of a self-driving vehicle at night.
GM is testing their self-driving versions of the new Chevrolet Bolt, which is an electric vehicle, in the City of Scottsdale. They also operate an IT innovation centre in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler with a role in the development of autonomous vehicles.
Finally, Governor Ducey welcomed Uber to the state capital just before Christmas of last year. Uber is continuing its testing in the Phoenix metropolitan area, and users of the Uber ride-sharing app have the opportunity to ride in the test vehicle at this time.
We believe Arizona’s approach to self-driving technology is one of co-operation, common sense and embracing innovation. We stand by our principles and are proud that Arizona is providing the space to develop technology that will revolutionize individual and commercial transport with improved safety and mobility for the public.
Those are my comments for the committee, and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you. I will start by congratulating you. It is very interesting. We have been studying this now for a few months, and it is informative. I would also like to thank Senator Mercer, who proposed having you as witness.
Senator Mercer: Thank you for being here. Arizona is a fascinating place, and it provides an interesting testing ground for these vehicles because you have a very busy metropolitan area around Phoenix but you also have a vast number of rural areas. Have you been able to judge how the self-driving vehicles operate in rush hour and at the busiest times in and around Phoenix?
Mr. Clark: Yes, actually, I have. I have taken numerous test drives with the companies that operate in the state. When I took my test drive with Waymo in downtown Chandler, which is a suburb of Phoenix, it was during rush hour, and I was able to experience not only the car slowing down and identifying stoplights and people moving in the crosswalk, but also speeding up. When it saw a yellow light, the computer, and not the driver, was able to determine that it was safer to speed up and get through the light instead of getting stuck in the intersection should the light turn red.
Those are the kinds of things that I was surprised to learn about the technological advancements: the ability of the computer to think ahead, to measure and determine its environment and make a decision. I was under the mistaken belief that this technology was still very much about seeing a yellow light and stopping at a yellow, or seeing a green light and going. I was pleasantly surprised it was able to calculate and take into account all these variables and make a safe determination based on that computation.
Senator Mercer: What did it do to your commute time?
Mr. Clark: I took a 30-minute ride around the city. It didn’t change my commute time. I was looking at the computer and technology and how it was working to make sure the driver was not cheating and that he was not the one driving the car, so it didn’t really change the commute time.
One of the things I can tell you is I believe that as the technology grows and more people take advantage of it, it will improve my ability to be productive while I’m in the vehicle. For example, there are things I would not normally do but see other drivers doing, like texting, talking on the phone, changing the radio station or dealing with the kids. This kind of technology will allow them to do these things without having to worry about keeping their eyes on the road or being fully and totally 100 per cent engaged.
Also, in one of the roles I have when I work with the local community in the cities and counties around the state, they are already looking at the implementation of this technology and how they are going to run their street infrastructure. How will they run their lights? Do they still need streetlights or stop signs, or will technology allow these cars to communicate with one another? And once that happens, they believe the traffic flows will significantly open up and cut down on time in the car but also increase vehicle miles travelled. They don’t have specific calculations of timing, but they do believe that will be a benefit of it.
Senator Mercer: What has been the reaction of the various police departments in these communities in the sense that they have to police the traffic. There is a car with people in it but nobody driving? If there was an infraction or if they were involved in an incident, how will they be able to react to that?
Mr. Clark: Senator and Mr. Chair, I apologize for not addressing both of you appropriately in answering the first two questions.
Moving forward, one of the things that we feel is a benefit of our being open-armed in the welcoming of this technology is that one of caveats we had in working with the companies was saying you need to work with local law enforcements, not only the state police force but the local police force as well. So it has been an area of cooperation. Some of the testing has brought in the police and fire units so that the cars can determine what a siren will sound like, how to address that, where they stop, how they pull to the right side of the road and whatnot.
In the two incidents we have had, we have treated those cars just as we would treat any other driver. We have not had a vehicle that has been tested without a driver in the front seat, ready to engage when necessary. But the two incidents that we’ve had were both where somebody else — the person that was not in the autonomous vehicle — was at fault. We took a police report and filled out the information as if the person driving autonomous vehicle was driving a normal car. That’s how we have treated this technology.
One of the things the committee is looking at is how we move forward. And as we move forward and someone is not in there, how do we submit a police report? What will it look like? How do we report that to the others and to the public and whatnot? It is one of those areas we are looking to address, but our stance right now is that we treat any autonomous vehicle like we would treat any other vehicle on the road. If they are at fault, we will charge them and cite them. If they are not at fault, we charge and cite the other driver and allow them to work through the insurance process to recoup their losses.
Senator Griffin: Thank you for being with us. I have a couple of questions, and a couple for second round. First, was it difficult to get clarification of the respective roles of the state government and the national government?
Mr. Clark: Senator Griffin, it was not a challenge to get clarification because the federal government had not quite moved on regulating the vehicles yet. Because the technology is still evolving and innovating, we have worked with our federal partners, quite frankly, to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each branch. The federal government has started to move on how exactly they will regulate and look at them.
The federal Department of Transportation has issued a set of guidelines. Much of it falls along the lines of what we requested and hoped would happen, which is that the federal government would be responsive to the roles they have and they would leave the licensing, insurance and regulation of the laws of the road to the state.
The federal government is looking at how the vehicles are put together and what kind of safety regulations they need to operate on, while the state is much more hands-on in its role of regulating, looking at or determining how exactly we are going to treat them as cars, how we are going to insure and cite them. I would say it has been a cooperative effort, but that has been from both the previous administration and this current administration’s desire to be more of a welcoming mat to the technology rather than rushing to overregulate something that is still in infancy.
Senator Griffin: My second question is this: Do you know how the people in your state have reacted to these automated vehicles? Are they happy with the technology? Have they embraced it?
Mr. Clark: Many people are excited that the technology is available. It’s one of those areas where it’s viewed as cool to be able to drive in one. But there is a constituency that is not concerned about the vehicles and it’s more of a curiosity factor. What is this going to look like? What happens if I get into an accident with someone who is not behind the car? It is more the question of what this technology means for me in the future. How will I deal with it? Is it going to affect me? We believe all of these questions will slowly be worked out.
Again, the partnerships we developed with the technology companies have made it easier. They look at it as many businesses do in that you need to have customers to sell the product to. They have been helpful in explaining it, outlining it and working with the general public to identify some of the areas that need to be explained while also “selling” the technology to users.
To answer your question in the most roundabout way possible, most of the public is very excited about it. There is a certain level of interest, as there is with any new technology. I would not say that there is fear, more just questions of how this will look into the future.
I can say from a personal level, I can’t wait for it to get here soon enough. I have three young children; two are girls and one is a son. The less time they spend behind the wheel driving their own cars, the better off I will feel about their safety.
Senator Bovey: I’m intrigued that testing in the U.S. is now moving out of controlled spaces and into public spaces. I’m also intrigued that the new federal guidelines seem to be leaving the decision of testing outside the controlled areas to the state level, and I was fascinated with your line about getting rid of many regulations.How does that work? We’re wondering what regulations we need to be putting in place to ensure the safety of passengers, the safety of pedestrians and the safety of highways. I’m afraid I’m rather confused about what point there should be not regulation and at what point there should be regulation.
Mr. Clark: I believe that’s a question we’re all looking to answer and are wrestling with. The line that I said about getting rid of burdensome regulations is that this governor and this administration is looking to remove regulations overall in the business world. What are some outdated regulations that may impede business? What are some things that harm an individual’s ability to start their own company and to move forward and whatnot?
One of the things that we as a committee and as an administration continue to do is work with our local and state police forces and first responders to ensure that many of the questions or concerns they have are addressed by these companies.
These are things we will tackle as we move forward, as the request to have someone come out of the vehicle and have a true driverless vehicle exist on the roadways will be looked at. It is a point of discussion. The way that we look at regulations is that we are treating this type of technology testing as we’ve treated automobile technology testing just about every time in the past.
However, because of its sensitive nature and the fact that it’s really taking a leap forward in automotive technology, this is one of the rare times that the automotive and technology companies have come to us and said openly, “We want to work in collaboration with you to help design and implement this technology, to help test it.” Often, you will have technology tested on a closed roadway or system and then into the public, and we’re usually the last to know. This is one of the rare times that as they have moved it out the testing phase internally and moved it into the public roadways that they have asked for collaboration at the state and local level.
We continue to work with them and monitor safety. We have had two incidents, both of which the person at fault was the human driver and not the autonomous vehicle. We strongly believe in the opportunity for the safety that this type of technology can provide, and we want to work cooperatively with these types of private entities to ensure not only public safety but that this technology moves forward and these kinds of advantages are available to the public.
Senator Bovey: Let me get a minute for the oversight committee and its mandate. How are the members selected for the Self-Driving Vehicle Oversight Committee that the governor struck under the executive order? How large is the committee and what is its mandate? How many members are there and how were the members selected?
Mr. Clark: I believe there are nine members selected by the governor. It’s a cross-section of the governor’s office and state, a police representative, a local representative and someone from the business industry. Again, when the technology came out and the governor put forth his executive order, it was put together as a way to kind of deal with the technology as it was then. One of the things that we’re doing is constantly revisiting the executive order and seeing if there are changes that need to be made to it. How do we update it? How do we move forward?
I will tell you one of the discussions that I know the industry is having and that others are having is insurance-wise, crash-related-wise and whatnot, how will these things be dealt with? The belief among those in the industry and I will say the general public is there is going to be an accident at one point in time that is the fault of this technology. How will we deal with it when it happens? That is a question that I can tell you we are looking at and trying to decide how best to address while also ensuring we do not hinder this technology moving forward and the benefits that it offers to the state of Arizona.
Senator Bovey: Thank you.
Senator MacDonald: Thank you, Mr. Clark, for being with us this evening. I’m familiar with your governor. He had quite an initiative there with civics and the appreciation of civics. I met him a few times, so pass on my best to him.
One of the concerns we have in Canada — we haven’t really gotten to it yet, but it will be a concern — is our environment when it comes to this stuff, our physical environment. We have a lot of harsh winters — snow, salt, sand, dealing with sensors and electronics. You don’t have those conditions in your part of the world, but are there other conditions that have come up that you wouldn’t initially be aware of or that you have monitored or got feedback on already that will be the equivalent of this, yet based in Arizona?
Mr. Clark: Unfortunately, one of the common misconceptions about the state of Arizona is that we’re just a dry desert that doesn’t have many climate conditions. I harken back to one of my friends when I was working on the East Coast who said, “Arizona is just a place where old people go to die.” So I had to fight that misconception often.
The state of Arizona has 13 climate zones. We do deal with snow. We deal with higher elevations. We deal with windstorms, all those things. We don’t really deal with that in our urban cores of Phoenix or Tuscon, but our Flagstaff area is very mountainous and deals with all of those elements. I’m guessing it’s not to the level that you’re used to, but it is one of those times when I say snow, I’m talking three to four inches as opposed to three to four feet.
One of the benefits of starting up in a state like Arizona is the fact that there are very mild conditions, at least in the urban areas, that they wanted to test, along what we call the I-10 corridor, which is the southern freeway that runs from Los Angeles all the way through to Florida. It’s a long, flat road that doesn’t really go through the mountains, and it doesn’t have a lot of environmental elements that you’ll have to deal with. It has been a wonderful place to test.
However, one of the things I know the industry is looking at is the dust storm. We have several dust storms that operate between Phoenix and Tuscon. Tuscon is about an hour and a half south of our urban centre in Phoenix. We get significant dust storms because of the agricultural elements of the state, so a lot of dust and dirt gets kicked up during the monsoon season in June, July and August. This kind of dust and whatnot, they are testing the sensors to see how they can pick it up. Are they still able to see things in front of the car? Are they still able to look at the road? How are they dealing with it?
It is an area they are looking to address. I know it is one of the things they’ve talked about as they move beyond the quote-unquote safe area of Arizona and other states into places like Michigan and others that deal with harsher winters, ice on the roads, slippery conditions and whatnot and how they will move forward with that.
But as a state, we are welcome to open our wonderful climate as not only a place to locate your headquarters because it’s great nine or ten months out of the year but also as a way to at least start the technology in infancy to get some of that data and then you can go forward organically.
Senator MacDonald: Thank you.
Senator Galvez: Thank you very much for a very interesting presentation. You started by giving some statistics on how these connected vehicles will reduce the number of accidents and will help handicapped people get to places they have to go and people who are blind. But then in the second part of your presentation, you talked about a very typical industry business model where you don’t want to have many regulations for individual use of these vehicles.
I’m sure you’ve done your market study because this is a traditional business model. Who is the person who will be able to buy these types of cars? You said you have three children and you don’t want them to drive, so these children will have to earn — right now, a Tesla costs $80,000. I cannot afford that vehicle. I don’t know. According to your economy in America, especially in the context of right now, who is going to be able to buy these cars according to your business model?
Mr. Clark: I share your desire to purchase a $80,000 Tesla, but as a government employee, I will never get that opportunity.
Anyhow, when I speak about the types of people who could take advantage of this technology, as with many new types of technology that come available, as it starts out, it’s the new adapters. That’s when it’s the most expensive. I assume that for many people, it will be available to those who can afford it, but as it becomes easier and you achieve economies of scale and it becomes cheaper to mass produce, it will work its way down through the automotive industry.
The state is not looking to market or sell the technology. We just want to encourage the development and testing of it because of the belief we have that this type of technology will benefit not only the state economically but also its residents socially. So when I talked about those types of individuals who would be able to take advantage of the technology, I was speaking about those who currently cannot drive under the conditions. Senior citizens who just can’t operate a vehicle anymore, either through vision impairment or physical impairment, may be able to take advantage of a car that can drive itself. Those who are blind or hearing impaired cannot operate a vehicle now because of their impairment or disability, but they can take advantage of this kind of technology to get from Point A to Point B. It could open a whole new world of opportunities for these types of individuals who don’t have it now.
As far as a market model, smarter people who know this — I will tell you that I wish I was in on the ground floor of this because my belief is that this is the new wave of technology and it offers a wonderful opportunity. I believe this is where the future is going.
But the state’s role is it believes it wants to foster this technology, again, because of the economic development that it could have for the state, as well as the social opportunities it provides not only to people like my daughters and me but also those who currently cannot access or drive their own cars.
I don’t know how far up that technology is, but as I say oftentimes when I’m speaking in front of other groups, I offer $100 to anyone sitting around the table or in the audience who could raise their hand thinking we would be close to having a car without a driver by the time my boss, the current Governor of Arizona, retires in another 40 years. The technology is moving quickly. We are happy to be a partner with those who are developing and testing it, and again, it’s because we feel that this will offer wonderful opportunities to the state of Arizona and we hope the United States as well, and Canada, Mexico and all the other countries that will be able to take advantage of it.
Senator Galvez: Don’t get me wrong. I love technology. I am a geek with technology. I just wonder who can buy it. If you had a crystal ball, how long would the span be to buy these and have a highway where people are driving them? Are you talking 5 years, 10 years or 30 years?
Mr. Clark: I can’t answer that question solidly because I don’t know. Technology could advance quickly; it could be slowly implemented. One of the things the state is doing is not only working with the testing of these vehicles, but we are looking to, infrastructure-wise, ensure that the investments we make are not tying us to one type of technology.
When we use taxpayer resources, when we’re building roads or doing whatever, we want to make sure that we’re not locking into a certain type of technology because it’s the fad of the day. Autonomous vehicles, as much as I believe in them, could become bunk. They could go the way of the dodo. As a state, infrastructure-wise, we want to make sure we’re not spending millions of dollars to upgrade or implement infrastructure that doesn’t meet future needs.
That being said, I can’t answer when it will be affordable for others or even for the state to invest in significantly. What I can say is that years ago, a cellphone that now could be used to build a bomb shelter cost $5,000, and the iPhone that I have, which does a million more things, I can get for $25 a month. So it depends as technology adapts, as economy of scales are reached or whatnot. I hope it’s sooner rather than later.
My hope is that the ride-share companies, like Uber or Lyft, will purchase them in significant amounts, which will make it cheaper, and sell them in that way. I can’t guess as to when it will be affordable, other than to say I hope it’s sooner rather than later for my own personal and selfish desires when it comes to me and my family as well. I wish I could answer your question in more solid terms. Based on my understanding, that’s the best I can give you. I’m sorry.
Senator Eggleton: Thank you very much for your presentation. In part of your presentation, you mentioned licensed and insured operators. If you’re talking about a driverless car, who are the operators? You have talked about testing on public roads, and you have talked about your own experience in that regard. Do you always require somebody to be there as a back-up in case the system fails? Does somebody still have to be classified as an operator in the vehicle?
Mr. Clark: As it stands right now, yes. Every driverless vehicle that is operated on a public roadway must have somebody in the vehicle that can take over. For example, if a dog runs out on the street and the computer disengages, somebody has to take the wheel and stamp on the brakes.
For example, there has to be an owner of the vehicle that registers the car and insures the car. The best example I can use is I will own a vehicle and my wife is driving it. The vehicle is insured under my name, the car is owned under my name, but my wife is driving it. If she is in an accident, the car that is cited is owned by me and it hurts my insurance. We treat it the same as anyone else. Somebody is the owner of the car that is financially responsible for it, and somebody is listed as the insurer of the car that must insure it.
As we move forward, we are looking at this question as to how we address that as well as liability. There are several questions that go out, specifically when it goes to who will be responsible should the technology go bad. Do you have to get extra insurance for that? Is that something that the company will assume as part of its role as developing the technology? These types of questions are continuously being discussed and reviewed.
We haven’t been asked to have somebody not drive on a public roadway. We believe that that request is coming. We don’t know when, but it is one of those things that we’re already talking about internally, how to address it and how do we move forward.
Senator Eggleton: Thank you. Now just picking up on the last set of questions, my Senate colleague spoke about the difficulty that people might have in purchasing one of these vehicles. As you point out, initially it may be quite expensive, but maybe further down the road, with economies of scale, it will become more possible to acquire.
Some people have come to our committee with a vision that doesn’t have so much sole ownership and operation of a vehicle, but it’s talking about shared vehicles, almost like a mini taxi or a minibus kind of concept. Part of the way they sell that is to say it will help get vehicles off the road. You won’t need to park them as often, and they will be able to shuttle back and forth on their own. Is that part of the vision that your governor sees in this?
Mr. Clark: Senator, I believe that that is one of the outcomes that could happen. As somebody who owns a two-car garage, I would very much welcome an opportunity to get rid of my two cars and turn it into a man cave where I can watch any kind of TV I want at any point in time and drink the beverage of my choice that I want without worrying about my children.
That being said, the future is unknown. I know one of the things we worry about is anybody coming to us and telling us this can happen. I can tell you that the efforts by both Lyft and Uber, the two major ride-sharing companies in the United States, and their desire to not only partner with these types of companies that are building this technology but also test it themselves, leads me to believe that that will be a large component of what is available.
I do know that some of the developers that operate within the state of Arizona, as well as California, have talked about how this type of technology, not only with ride-share but this autonomous vehicle type of technology, will allow them to get space in areas that they never thought that they had.
Oftentimes what happens is when we discuss autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing gets lumped into them. Right now, they are two separate entities. For example, Uber and Lyft are two distinct companies that operate on a different business model. Autonomous vehicles are about moving towards more of the automatic driving of a car. There is clearly some integration between the two, and I believe that the two of them will become one at some point in time because that seems to be where technology is taking us. Again, that could change. There could be a major pushback by the public that still wants to own their own car and wants to drive their own car. It could be that it’s different in rural areas versus urban areas. It could be different in some place like Manhattan, New York, as opposed to Phoenix, Arizona.
Again, much of what we’re doing in the state is encouraging this technology because of the benefits that we feel that it could offer to the state, both socially and economically. Do I envision a future where that could happen? Absolutely. But I could also see where it could be a mix of several opportunities that are available out there, where autonomous vehicles are just one of several kinds of vehicles that are out there driving on the roadway.
Senator Eggleton: The U.S. Department of Transport produced a model state policy for autonomous vehicles. In fact, it just updated it, I understand. To what extent does your state follow that policy guideline? Is there a consistent approach by the various states to follow this model policy?
Mr. Clark: Senator, I believe that our goal, in talking to our Department of Transportation and whatnot, is to implement many of the guidelines outlined by the federal Department of Transportation. It is our hope, in an effort to again highlight the benefits of being in the state of Arizona, that there is a level playing field for all states to operate under. We look forward to working with the federal Department of Transportation to help implement those types of roles and regulations.
The only thing we would caution against or be opposed to would be a heavy-handed approach where the federal government started to assume what we view as the state’s roles and responsibility. The open dialogue between our governor and our federal representatives with the federal department of transportation has ensured that we have an open dialogue about how these roles and responsibilities should be divided up.
One of things I think is so much fun from my position is the opportunity to be involved in brand new technology. I often feel like I’m on the floor of someone who is developing the iPhone and how cool that will be to be able to tell the kids, “When this was new, daddy was involved with helping to test it,” making sure it got on the road or something along that line.
We continue to work with the federal government. We look for clear, straightforward and equal guidelines we can all follow. Our only concern is federal overreach, but it’s “so far, so good” on this type of testing and technology.
Senator Eggleton: Thank you.
Senator Cormier: Thank you for appearing in front of committee, and thank you for your presentation. Since the beginning of this study, we’ve heard a lot about issues like accessibility, training, country planning, and concerns about elderly people and disabled people. I’m trying to understand what the impacts will be here in Canada on the regulations, for example, for social policies generally, not only for transportation. Do you have ideas about that? Also, what do you think will be the impact of the arrival of that type of vehicle on the social policies of your state?
Mr. Clark: Thank you, senator. This kind of technology could open up the doors to all sorts of efficient spending in areas of things like mass transit and city planning and determining environmental impact. One of the things I talk about is that the federal guideline on how to design the road is significantly wider than the cars, because they are trying to deal with human error. That way, if someone swerves or isn’t paying attention, you have plenty of time to redirect. Does this technology allow you to build smaller cars or smaller roadways, or add a lane mile in the same footprint without having to repave or acquire right-of-way on either side of the road?
I think the impacts, both socially and economically, are significant. It offers us the opportunity to kind of look again at how we all deliver these services to the public.
As the technology develops, it will also depend on how quickly people adapt it. As I said, there are parts of the state that are rural that don’t exactly adapt to technology. We in Phoenix, which is the suburb, may have smaller roads, smaller lanes, better technology access and transit that moves people from point A to point B instead of on a fixed rail or route, whereas a rural community might have to still operate under the old guidelines because the technology has not been adapted to by the populace as quickly as in other areas.
To answer your question in a convoluted and roundabout way, it depends on how quickly it develops. I will tell you that we as a state continue to look at these opportunities as they present themselves and try to be creative and efficient in how we maximize the taxpayer dollars that have been entrusted to us to provide this type of infrastructure.
The Chair: Before we start a second round, there are two issues we didn’t deal with. One is urban transport —buses — and how you have studied them or how you have used them and tested them, and the trucking. We’ve heard witnesses here talk about platooning — having a series of trucks one behind the other. Are these two issues that have been studied by your government?
Mr. Clark: We have not looked at transit yet. We have not been asked to do that. That’s not to say it’s not happening in a closed track somewhere in the state, but none of the companies we deal with have looked at it. It has been more passenger vehicles.
When it comes to platooning, we have had at least one company talk to us about doing it. Another has indicated it plans to open an office in the city of Tucson to start platooning along the I-10. We are excited about that opportunity because of the cost savings and the efficiencies that are there with transit.
However, we view it differently than autonomous vehicles because it requires drivers to be there. It is about distances travelled and the drag on the air, the wind, the fuel cost-savings and whatnot, as opposed to truly autonomous, non-driving technology.
It is one area we have studied. We are working on it and know there will be testing starting soon in the state. I don’t think an announcement has been made public, but it is an area we are aware of and looking at.
The Chair: Before going to our next witness, are there any other questions?
Senator Bovey: I have one small question, if I may. I think you’ve answered it. Of the five stages of this technological development, there is a lot of talk about where we’re at with technology. Is it stage two and half and when will we reach stage three? In light of the experiments and testing you have going now, do you think it’s worth producing stage three technology that requires a driver to be ready to take over the automobile in an emergency, or do you think you are seeing the technology develop fast enough that we won’t need that level?
Mr. Clark: Senator, I look at it from a human nature perspective. I believe it will be very hard to ask a driver to disengage from whatever they are doing and stop paying attention to the road only to be ready at a moment’s notice to take back the wheel and control of the car without knowing what is going on. Human nature is what it is. The moment you don’t have to be responsible for it, especially in something like a vehicle, they will lean back and turn on Netflix and start binge-watching whatever show they have not had a chance to see. Then the moment something happens, bells and whistles go off and they are expected to drop everything and re-engage and operate the vehicle safely.
It is one of those questions that I know the industry is looking at as to whether it can even happen and whether you can trust the human being operating it to do it. When you are being paid to be a test driver, it’s much easier to say, “You will be engaged and driving,” versus an individual of the public who gets in the car, starts driving and whatnot.
My hope is that this will be settled long before these are commercially available and able to drive and that the testing will be done on closed tracks with real people to determine whether that’s a feasible option. Again, though, from my perspective with human nature and whatnot, I don’t know how that can operate in that middle stage. I just don’t see how it’s the safest, most efficient way to do it, but if the testing can be done and they can show the safety record, we are happy to work with these companies as they move forward. That’s my perspective versus the state’s perspective.
Senator Bovey: Thank you.
The Chair: Before suspending, I want to thank Mr. Clark and the governor for having freed you for your participation. I can assure you that you will be getting a copy of our report as soon as it’s published. If you want, you can also follow us on the web, if you really have a lot of time, but we will send you a copy of our report. We thank you for your cooperation and for having participated in our study.
Victor Senna, Clerk of the Committee: Honourable senators, I see a quorum. As clerk of the committee, it is my duty to advise you of the unavoidable absence of the chair and deputy-chair, and to preside over the election of an acting chair.
I am ready to receive motions to that effect. Are there any nominations?
Senator Eggleton: I move Senator Bovey to the chair.
Mr. Senna: It’s moved by the Honourable Senator Eggleton that the Honourable Senator Bovey do take the chair of this committee. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Mr. Senna: I declare the motion carried and invite Senator Bovey to take the chair.
Senator Patricia Bovey (Acting Chair) in the chair.
The Acting Chair: I want to thank you all very much. I think we’re now going to have to suspend for a couple of minutes while we continue to set up the video conference, so thank you for your patience as we connect our computers on wheels, if I may, to Silicon Valley.
Honourable senators, unfortunately due to technical difficulties, we will not be able to hear from our witness in California, Mr. Soriano. However, he did provide his opening remarks to us in advance. Is it agreed that his remarks are considered as evidence for our study?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Acting Chair: With that, honourable senators, these will be put in the record. Our clerk will be in touch with him to see if there is any further information he would like to add. If any of you have questions, particularly for him, I will ask them to send them to you so that we can get the evidence, if we want more evidence from him.
I have to remind you that next Tuesday, there will not be a meeting in Ottawa because the committee will be in Waterloo for its fact-finding mission.
With that, I want to thank you all.
(The committee adjourned.)