On October 3, 2017, members of the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications toured the University of Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research, also known as WatCar. Senators participated in an automated vehicle demonstration with the University of Waterloo’s Autonomoose, the nickname engineering students use for their automated vehicle project.
WatCar was one of the first three organizations along with the Erwin-Hymer Group, and Blackberry QNX, approved to test automated vehicles under the government of Ontario’s autonomous vehicles (AV) pilot program.
Senators Dennis Dawson, Art Eggleton, and Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu received briefings from professors Steven Waslander, Krzysztof Czarnecki, Sebastian Fischmeister, and Charlie Rossi, engineering and innovation director from the Erwin Hymer Group, to learn more about automated vehicles and vehicle research. The Erwin Hymer Group is an international auto manufacturer active in the Kitchener-Waterloo tech and innovation corridor. They have been testing and monitoring a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van at different levels of automation.
“In order to ensure Canada is not falling behind the United States and countries in Europe, we must ensure legislation and the regulatory process keep up with technology in a timely fashion. Whether we are ready or not, AV technology will be hitting the roads,” Senator Dawson said.
Senators learned about current research and development programs to encourage pilot projects, safety challenges, cybersecurity, and motorhome development for the automated vehicles and connected vehicles sectors. “Politicians need to ensure there is public confidence in AVs once they hit the road. This involves ironing out issues related to safety, security and collection of personal data,” Senator Eggleton said.
For Senator Bosivenu, the lack of leadership was top of mind. “The government will need to determine who will be in charge of leading the future of AVs in Canada. Based on what we’ve seen at WatCar, it would be wise to include the Waterloo region as their research is conducted in collaboration with the private sector.”
The committee has been studying the regulatory and technical issues related to the deployment of connected and automated vehicles since March 2016. This study will also consider the long-term implications and challenges of these technologies, such as their impacts on privacy, energy, land use, transportation demand, training and employment.
The committee intends to release a report by December 31, 2017.