I call the meeting to order.
Before we start the testimony, I need permission from the committee to try to get some testimony in before the vote in spite of the fact the bells are ringing. Do I have unanimous consent from the committee to hear the witnesses?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Okay, that's good. Thank you very much. We'll go on.
This is the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, 42nd Parliament. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are doing a study of automated and connected vehicles in Canada.
With us today are Jeremy McCalla, Global UAV Technologies Limited; Bern Grush, from Grush Niles Strategic; and Mark Aruja, Chairman of the Board, Unmanned Systems Canada.
I understand, Mr. Grush, that you have a short video you would like to show us at the end of your testimony with the others today. It's in English only, but you have brought the transcript, which the interpreters have.
Do we have unanimous consent to allow Mr. Grush to show us the video after the testimony of the other gentlemen? Is that all right?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Mr. McCalla, would you like to begin?
Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for the opportunity to speak in front of you today.
I am proud to stand here before this committee and discuss some aspects of the unmanned aerial systems industry in Canada.
My name is Jeremy McCalla. I have been involved in almost every aspect of the unmanned aerial systems industry, from UAV piloting to owning my own business, over the past several years.
Currently I work with Global UAV Technologies, a vertically integrated, publicly listed unmanned aerial systems company in Canada. Our company owns and operates service companies specializing in unmanned airborne geophysical surveying and photogrammetry, a Canadian UAV manufacturer, and a regulatory consulting business. All of our current operations are under the existing regulatory framework of Transport Canada, and we are currently working very hard towards a compliant unmanned aerial system and full compliant operator status for our survey companies.
Most of our survey work takes place in remote areas, away from aerodromes, towns, and even public roads. A lot of times we fly unmanned aerial vehicles at low altitudes, sometimes only 10 metres above the treetops. This type of airborne geophysical surveying is performed mainly by piloted aircraft today.
Flying manned aircraft for geophysical surveying is extremely hazardous and dangerous, even for the most experienced pilots, given the monotonous nature of the flying and the low altitude. In fact, according to the International Airborne Geophysics Safety Association, between the year 2000 and the year 2017 there were between five and 15 deaths per year for survey operations.
Currently visual line of sight operations for unmanned aerial systems are permitted in Canada with special flight operations certificates. Although this system is sometimes slow and can be convoluted, it works, and it gives us an environment that allows us to be economically successful. However, to enable growth in the unmanned aerial systems industry, move manned aviation away from dangerous jobs, and enable Canada to lead other countries on the global stage, routine operations beyond the visual line of sight are required, especially in remote areas.
The business prospects, both nationally and internationally, could far be enhanced by a more aggressive time frame on opening up beyond visual line of sight operations and solidifying visual line of sight operations into a regulated, as opposed to a case-by-case, environment. Furthermore, allowing for an alternative unmanned aerial system solution to dangerous manned aviation jobs such as airborne geophysical surveying could save lives.
The ability for Canadian companies to access capital, plan for the future, and invest in research and development could also be enhanced by a more aggressive time frame for opening up beyond visual line of sight operations and solidifying visual line of sight operations into a regulated environment.
Currently, without a clear path forward, companies and investors are sitting idle or looking toward expansion plans in other countries where regulations appear to be moving in a direction favourable to the unmanned aerial systems industry.
We understand that aviation is, and always will be, heavily regulated, and we understand and agree that the flying public and people we fly over need assurances of safety. We also feel that given past resources, Transport Canada has done a good job handling the enormous growth of the unmanned aerial systems industry in Canada.
With budget 2017 allocating more money for Transport Canada, dedicated groups such as Unmanned Systems Canada, and a hard-working unmanned aerial systems sector, Canada still has an unbelievable opportunity to become recognized around the world as having one of the most progressive approaches towards regulating unmanned aerial systems, something that is not only good for Canada but also good for Canadian businesses, research institutions, and students.
We believe that the beyond visual line of sight proof of concept recently released by Transport Canada and some of the proposed changes to visual line of sight operations are a positive step in the right direction. However, there is room for improvement.
What we ask is that industry stakeholders be more involved in the process of developing routine beyond visual line of sight operations and developing a regulated environment for visual line of sight operations that works for everyone, ensures safety, and allows for economic growth.
We also ask for more transparency from Transport Canada in how they are developing their regulations and a timeline for regulations that can be adhered to.
Good afternoon. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today once again on behalf of Unmanned Systems Canada, the national association that represents the unmanned vehicle systems community and our 500 members.
I bring to you today insights gained from over a decade of unmanned aerial systems experience with policy and regulatory development, an integral component of the autonomous vehicles discussion.
Whether airborne or on the ground, these mobile devices are part of a much larger enterprise connected through communication networks to data processing systems and analytical tools. This integrated ecosystem is already demonstrating significant improvements in our productivity, safety, and security, and we've only just begun.
My talk today connects hockey and farming.
As public policy-makers, you need to firmly grasp, as Gretzky said, where the puck is going to be. I'm going to start with where the puck is today, using agriculture as an example, and then share experience with where the puck has been, and end with a few recommendations and requests.
Two major technological trends are driving a change that is transforming our society. These are human sensing being replaced by machine sensing and human decision-making being replaced by data analytics and deep learning. What will that future look like?
Effective public policy will allow us to shape the expected benefits to society, create opportunities, and balance those with an understanding of the risks. That's how we get to where the puck is going to be.
Where is the puck today?
The advent of precision agriculture is truly revolutionary, opening up great possibilities. Starting this spring, every day UAVs will be flying automated missions to image fields for precision such that individual corn plants can be distinguished and characterized. The imagery is combined with many other data sources. It is processed and analyzed, with decisions made often within hours. These decisions on matters such as pesticide applications or seeding are fed digitally into autonomous tractors or other UAVs, which precisely apply that prescription. Farming is becoming evidence-based. Decisions that used to be applied to a field are now applied by the square metre.
Where has the puck been?
In 2006, we first engaged Transport Canada to develop UAS regulations, regulations for unmanned aircraft systems. By 2010, we had implemented a jointly developed road map with a crawl-walk-run strategy. Those efforts guided investment and innovation. In a decade, the UAS industry grew from 80 companies to over 1,000. However, as talented and dedicated as the staff at Transport Canada are, they were not resourced for the task until a decade later, in the budget of 2017.
The result was that in July of last year the first draft regulations for drone operations were published in the Canada Gazette, part I, reflecting a view of the puck being in our skates—obsolete on arrival. As I briefed you in 2016, the economic demand today is to survey that farm on a scale of thousands of acres at a time, not hundreds, meaning that we must be able to operate beyond visual line of sight, which is not yet permitted.
We have two critical concerns. When we had a road map to define manageable goals, we demonstrated success. Let's get back to doing what works. Today we have no road map from Transport Canada to guide the urgent work that we need to jointly undertake. We are steadily losing our global competitiveness, falling behind Europe, the United States, and Australia, to name a few.
Second, Transport Canada needs a formalized risk assessment process. Industry has a vested interest in managing safety risk and has worked for the last two years to develop that capability. Our needs are mutual, and this shortcoming will implicate automated road vehicles as well.
How can we get the puck out of our skates?
We commend the Advisory Council on Economic Growth report as a framework for shaping national policies to spur market development and accelerate the adoption of autonomous systems and new business processes. We also commend the recommendation in the Senate committee's report “Driving Change” to develop a pan-government policy-making framework. There is no government department that isn't implicated by the changes that are under way.
Our advice to the autonomous vehicles industry and government is to set policy to describe the future. Develop best practices and then incrementally validate them through testing. Then, when you're really confident, make regulations. Expect this process to take a long time—but if you do it the other way around, it will take a lot longer.
Ensure that Transport Canada is resourced now to undertake the challenge of autonomous systems. As a footnote, do not separate autonomous cars from UAVs and the other elements in this common ecosystem.
Finally, we have two specific requests for this committee. We ask that you request Transport Canada to develop a road map enabling the UAS industry to move forward without further delay, and second, that they work with industry to develop a formalized risk management process.
I want to open with a few words.
Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee, for the opportunity to comment regarding impacts of vehicle automation on cities and public transportation systems. My name is Bern Grush. My background encompasses human factors, human attention, artificial intelligence, and systems design engineering out of the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo.
I'm a founder of Grush Nile Strategic, a think tank focused on finding ways to deploy automated vehicles to promote environmental sustainability, social equity, and urban livability with regard to human transport.
I would like to make two additional observations about vehicle automation specifically for moving people. First, the future of automobility will include two markets, market one for selling and buying personal or family-owned vehicles and market two for selling and buying rides hired only for the duration of a single trip.
Today market two includes all forms of for-hire vehicles, such as taxis, ride hailing, and car share, and includes all forms of transit. This is critical, because these two markets give us two distinct worlds for urban planning. AVs will sustain the 125-year-old competition between public and private modes. Both markets will be very large and will continue to challenge planners to accommodate large numbers of personal vehicles while concurrently seeking ways to harness massive fleets of shared vehicles to benefit urban populations.
Planners, concerned with efficiency and environment, are biased toward fleets of shared vehicles, but the revealed preference of the majority of travellers is biased toward private automobile ownership. Current assertions that this will change significantly are based on wishful thinking and are without reliable evidence. A shift to shared-vehicle mode will occur only if we take strategic and proactive policy decisions.
I recommend three things: that government begin an immediate migration to regulations that require AVs to be zero-emission vehicles, impose distance-based road user fees, and implement demand-based parking fees in all public, commercial, and employee spaces.
My second point is that during their early decades, AVs will not achieve full SAE level 5 automation. Market one personal vehicles will retain user controls, allowing them to be driven anywhere. These vehicles will increase average trip distance and frequency. They will increase sprawl by reducing the discomfort of driving in congestion.
This will encourage more families to acquire these vehicles, further worsening congestion. These vehicles will continue to demand an average of four parking spots each, since they will still be parked a majority of the time and will still tend to remain near their owners.
At the same time that this is happening, market two driverless for-hire vehicles will be geofenced—i.e., constrained to carefully mapped roads. These will be robotic taxi and shuttle systems that will appeal first to travellers who are already using taxis, ride-hailing, or using transit. Such fleets will recruit heavily from existing public systems, disrupting transit just as ride-hailing disrupted our taxis. Without government oversight, this will threaten social equity.
I recommend incentives for today's commercial ride providers to encourage rides from and to transit hubs, to increase average vehicle occupancy, and to add transport for disabled travellers and for people from transit deserts, all in a way that accelerates the process of reducing the number of urban trips in personal vehicles in order to prepare ourselves for the AV robotaxis that are coming.
That's a good question, and the answer is quite involved.
Very briefly, that accident had aspects of technology failure. There was no reason to hit a pedestrian. The technology is beyond running over pedestrians. There was something turned off or something not working. We're not sure what that was and we can't speculate yet until the NTSB sorts that out.
We're not moving quickly enough to anticipate the changes in society, which is what my work is about. I won't say that we should move more quickly with testing in Canada, for example. I do think we should be thinking more about deployment as opposed to just testing, because we're a little bit lopsided in Canada. I'm from Ontario, and Ontario has testing programs, but that testing is about the technology itself. Clearly the technology is not ready; I'm not saying it is.
Also, the safety regulations that were in play in Arizona were very clearly insufficient. There are errors being made technically and errors were made in the regulatory area. I don't think we're making those regulatory errors here yet, but I also think we need to be pushing into further layers of anticipation about the social and infrastructural changes and not just the technology itself. The technology itself is a tiny part of a whole picture.
When I say “infrastructure”, just as you include broadband in the infrastructure for UAVs, I'm including our transit fleets in the infrastructure for transportation.
Our habit for the past 100 or more years, for the most part, has been for government to acquire and operate transit systems, all the way from rail to buses. That “acquire and operate” methodology is very slow. The technology of the new mobility is moving very quickly. I'm suggesting that from that perspective, we need to move from the “acquire and operate” to a “specify and regulate” mode.
We have to use the technologies that are there now. We can't make those decisions quickly enough. Governance of transportation is far harder than some entrepreneurs inventing some new LIDAR or something like that.
Government can't keep up with the technology, but government has to keep the fundamental values of transit, which have to do with congestion management, moving large numbers of people to their jobs, and social equity. All of those elements of transit need to be preserved, and that's what's under threat if we just wait until these systems push transit aside. That's my greatest fear.
I hope that's a sufficient answer for you.
Those are great points, great questions, Matt.
Sometimes I think we get caught up in the minutiae of the technology. Quite frankly, the technology isn't our priority. It's not our area. That's industry's priority. Let them drive that process—no pun intended. I think what's up for us to be concentrating on is being ready for that technology to hit us.
Mr. Grush, you're bang on with respect to the culture, with being prepared with the proper infrastructure, the proper integration of methods of transportation—whether road, air, rail, water—and integrating all methods of transportation that may be automated.
As well—and sometimes we don't think too deeply into this—there's the integration of the distribution logistics side of it when it comes to data management, information, and things like that. It goes a lot further than just the obvious.
My question is to all three of you. In your professional opinions, how would you recommend we start layering that dialogue in terms of what I alluded to, the other aspects, versus the actual technology of the vehicles themselves?
The first thing we need to do is ask what the purpose is. Again, I'm focusing back on transit. Why do we have transit? What are our goals and reasons for it? It's not about how we go about it and how we did it before and how we can tune it, but why do we have it in the first place? If we don't understand why we have it, we're not going to be able to defend it in the face of the technology changes that are coming. That's the very first layer.
If we are clear, for example, on whether we agree or not that it's about social equity, whether we agree or not that it's about moving a large mass of people through a dense space.... If we agree that we're going to densify cities—and I'm not saying we should or shouldn't—then we need to ask how we're going to keep transit in that environment.
A very specific example is that it is absolutely certain that the robotic shuttles and taxis and so forth will threaten our municipal bus systems. There are a couple of thousand cities in Canada, and only a couple of hundred of them have transit systems. Many of those are threatened by these robot taxis and so forth now. What happens is that in those five or six larger cities that have subways, for example, these technologies are going to take away buses first, and that will take away some of the funnel into your light rail and urban rail systems. Those would then be the second systems under threat. How do we keep all of those people on those rail systems in spite of the convenience of coming out of their doors, getting into robotic taxis, and taking those taxis all the way to work, all 20 or 30 kilometres? I think that's the huge threat. How do we preserve our rail systems?
We're still investing in rail now in many cities. How do we think about preserving that value in spite of these robotic taxis?
There are a couple of facets to this. One is—and I agree with Bern, in terms of the urban environment, for sure—that we have a lot of converging pieces to this puzzle. I would recommend this committee also talk to the Nokias, the Ericssons, the Teluses, and the AI industry to get a bit of a picture. They are driving a big part of this puzzle
I'll go back to the agriculture example. The advisory committee on economic growth recommended we set a policy of moving from fifth to second globally in the exporting of agricultural products. That is a really straightforward policy statement that will absolutely drive innovation that is connected directly to these systems.
I'll give you a really simple example of what you could do tomorrow—not next week, but literally tomorrow morning. You could say that the federal government will partner with any province that wishes to step up to test the driving of automated tractors on public roads. These tractors are all automated, but they can't go from field to field on a rural road. There's no technological barrier whatsoever to that, so it would be a very simple case study that would provide societal input in a very economic outcome-driven piece, if you will. The societal acceptance in that community would feed part of what Bern is talking about. Not everything is centred around Toronto and how they view things. There might be a different view in Lethbridge.
That would be an example of picking your battle, if you will. I think the advisory group has done a good job of that.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Gentlemen, thank you for being here and for your patience.
I was born in 1960. In my youth, we thought that, by the year 2000, people would retire at 55, that the work week would be four days and that there would be flying cars. Here too, we are looking 40 years into the future.
I tend to believe that technological change over the next four decades could lead to what you are describing. However, when I look at the other line that marks the decline in personal cars, it seems to me that the analysis needs to change. Somehow, you have to get rid of the pleasure of driving and the pleasure of owning a car.
How will it be possible to have those two lines cross, that is to say that the technology allows the development of autonomous cars, but also that consumers are willing to give up their cars?
What I'm seeing now, and it will probably be the trend for the next few years, is that clean cars, electric cars, are attracting a lot of interest. We can see it in Tesla's success, for example.
What will motivate people to opt for autonomous cars and lead them to lose the pleasure of driving?
The question arises all the more because, right now, we are not able to develop public transportation between major urban centres. This means that people are going to drive between Montreal and Toronto or between Quebec City and Montreal anyway. Why, once there, would they really have a blast driving an autonomous vehicle?
That is a huge problem. The solution is not to make it miserable to own your car; the solution is to make it wonderful to use a shared vehicle.
There's a natural aversion to the sense of losing your car. I have a car, and I think from your question you have a car. There is a loss. You feel like there might be a loss of something. We're averse to that kind of loss. In order to have someone change something, the thing that they're going to change to has to be almost twice as good as the thing they're leaving. That's the challenge.
To make the activity of using a vehicle and not owning attractive is a much larger challenge than the actual technology challenge of making a vehicle run by itself. Your question is so far unanswered. When you hear people say that no one is going to need to own a car, that's true rationally, but it's not true behaviourally and economically. From a behavioural economics perspective, everything that you're saying is true. Many people prefer to keep their car, and that's a huge problem.
I wish I had the answer. If I had the answer, I would be very wealthy.
Here's what's worse. Right now in Canada, fewer than 10% of all trips are taken in a non-family vehicle. If we get 75% of all trips in a non-owned vehicle 30 years from now, the whole world population of cars will still be the same as now, because our demand for trips will increase, and our wealth increases. That's one of the reasons we demand more trips. A small change of moving from 8% to 18% won't make any difference at all. Our congestion problems are far bigger than a few people shifting to robotaxis. It's a very big problem.
Thank you for that question.
In 2007, we had an agreed joint plan developed, which had four phases. We are almost finished phase one, which is the initial regulatory release we're expecting with CG2 this summer. Phase two is kind of halfway, and phases three and four are about beyond visual line of sight—for example, how do we do sections of land, and how does Jeremy get to do hundreds of kilometres of line survey?
We know the industry–government working group relationship is fabulous. It's a great working relationship, but we're totally stopped. There's no visioning. We need something. It's not as if we don't know what we need to do, but it is not written down, it is not transparent, and there's no senior-level oversight, managerially or politically, to make this thing happen.
There are great aspirations. We want to grow our sector of agriculture from 6.7% of GDP to something north of that, but we have these sticky wickets in the way.
It irks me no end that the United States had no road map at all three years ago, but I can go on their website—and I know they're going to be updating their website in a couple of weeks—and I will have full transparency into that, and I will have that transparency for many other jurisdictions.
We need to not have folks just trying to addle their way through every day to what they think industry needs. Let's sort this out. We're not going to have a perfect plan, but let's get your one, two, three sorted out, because we have to deal with the technological change. It is unbelievably rapid, but we can't afford to have regulations drafted that don't reflect reality.
My thanks to the witnesses for being here today.
I understand the importance of being proactive on this issue. I agree with my colleague Mr. Aubin. I love driving cars. What will happen to the Ferrari of tomorrow? Will it exist only so that we can admire its style?
Still, I have some doubts about the automobile. Even today, the automobile can be perceived by outsiders as a sign of wealth. I continue to believe that the need to own a vehicle will not diminish.
Congestion is already a problem. How can autonomous vehicles overcome this problem?
My question is for one of you three, and I would like the answer to be short.
I may have a bit of a different perspective, and let me tell you why. When you own a fleet of delivery vehicles, you can buy an application to track all of those vehicles. If someone stops at a Tim Hortons for more than 15 minutes, it will tell you. That technology is in your cellphone.
That technology, I believe, is going to be far more adoptable today, rather than grade separation and all of those things. We can put that into driving cars today to prevent going into a lane that has, let's say, autonomous vehicles in it. We have the technology today to do that, and we're implementing it today for UAVs. We're just putting a propeller onto the cellphone to manage it.
One of the things that was mentioned by Bern is called geofencing. This technology is now widespread out there. It makes sure that autonomous systems or unmanned systems do not go past a geographical barrier, and it goes right into the control system. The technology is here today. It is very simple to adopt it in a manually driven car.
This is more of a comment.
When I listen to testimony, I wonder if the federal government has its infrastructure funding program set up right. For example, the public transit infrastructure fund, a $3.5 billion fund, is putting money into renewing bus fleets. In 2012 the TTC retired their last General Motors fishbowl bus that was purchased in the 1980s. These buses last for 20 to 30 years.
I hear about automation and the elimination of jobs and I listen to people like Mark Carney, who was referring to a Bank of England report that 15 million jobs in the U.K. are going to disappear. PricewaterhouseCoopers reported last year that 38% of all jobs in the United States will be eliminated in the next 12 years because of automation. I hear about the rapid transformation of vehicular traffic. Are we making the right capital investments by purchasing buses in our transit fleets in our large cities?
I also wonder about what happens to all these bus drivers and jobs and everything else.
It's more of a comment and something for us to think about as we embark on this study.
I call the Standing Committee on Transport back to order. Under Standing Order 108(2), we are doing a study of automated and connected vehicles in Canada.
Welcome to all our guests: Denis Gingras, Professor, Laboratory on Intelligent Vehicles, Université de Sherbrooke; Scott Santens, Writer and Advocate of Unconditional Basic Income; and from QNX Software Systems Limited, Grant Courville, Head of Product Management, and John Wall, Senior Vice-President.
Mr. Gingras, why don't you start? You have five minutes, please.
Thank you very much for inviting me to appear before you and for giving me the opportunity to share my opinions on the field in which I have been working for more than 30 years.
We often have to ask ourselves questions about the motivation that drives us to make autonomous vehicles. Let's first look at our transportation system and our mobility issues.
In fact, it would be difficult to imagine a more inefficient transportation system than the one we currently have. Our transportation system is based on a business model that relies on the sale of vehicles and the individual ownership of cars. Population growth is constant, and part of the population moves to larger cities at the expense of the regions. In economics, the just-in-time method has been used. All goods that were transported by train are now being transported on our roads by road trains, which has contributed to destroying our road infrastructure. We just have to look at the current state of our roads to see it.
The occupancy rate of the vehicles is to the tune of 5%. Furthermore, 80% of people still travel individually in vehicles. You just have to compare the average weight of a person with the average weight of a vehicle, which is increasing because, according to statistics, people are buying more and more SUVs or vans: this is not going in the right direction at all.
There are still pollution-related issues. More than 80% of vehicles still have combustion engines.
In addition, vehicles are used for approximately one hour per day. Once again, the vehicle usage rate is about 5%, which is completely ineffective. Ask any business owner if they would buy equipment that they would use for only 5% of the time. Nobody would invest money for that.
As we can see, this is significant.
Fortunately, the transportation sector is currently experiencing a revolution around three major pillars. Clearly, there is the electrification of propulsion systems, but I will not talk much about it today. There is also the automation of driving, and the whole area of connectivity, of telecommunications systems. Those three aspects are bringing about a revolution in the transportation sector. This revolution will have major repercussions both in terms of business models and in terms of possible solutions to mobility problems. However, it is up to us to make drastic decisions in order to change course and improve our transportation systems. Like it or not, despite the digitization of our society and the importance of information technology, we remain physical beings manipulating physical objects and we will always have the need to move around.
I will now talk about automated driving.
Why do we want to have autonomous vehicles? There are two major reasons.
First, we want to improve road safety, because computers have a much faster response time than humans. In addition, because of the diversity of on-board sensors and current processing systems that are highly advanced and that continue to improve, including through artificial intelligence, we can come up with solutions to improve road safety and reduce the number of accidents, injuries and fatalities.
The second reason is that autonomous vehicles, as far as the concept of robotic taxis is concerned, can help us reduce the number of vehicles on the roads. Traffic congestions is really one of the major problems, besides the aspects related to the danger of travelling by road.
Telecommunications is also an interesting aspect because it allows us to consider the sharing of intelligence between vehicles and road infrastructures. So far, car manufacturers have invested all their efforts in including embedded intelligence in vehicles, while transportation agencies, departments and all public agencies that deal with road infrastructure have invested very little in their infrastructure to make them smarter. In the current situation, there is an imbalance. We need to further harness the communication capacity in order to try to optimize the sharing of intelligence between infrastructure and vehicles.
In terms of the recommendations, I think we urgently need serious and detailed work on regulations and legislation to accommodate these new vehicles, vehicles that can communicate and drive autonomously.
In particular, in the short term, it is essential to oversee the way pilot projects are carried out on public roads and to invest in the development of vehicle testing and validation procedures, including through Transport Canada and testing sites such as the ones we have in Blainville, north of Montreal.
I will stop there.
I would like to thank the committee for having me here today.
In 2014 I went on a road trip with my fiancée, and on the road trip from Louisiana to Florida we had a conversation about the potential effects of driverless trucks. Months later I self-published an article born from that conversation, which went viral globally, and in these past four years, despite my own warnings about it, even I have been shocked by the speed of development of this technology.
I have no Ph.D. I'm not a programmer or a truck-driver. I'm simply a citizen who spends a lot of time researching topics of interest to me and writing about them. The area that tends to interest me most is the effect of technological advancement on human civilization. With that in mind, I wish to spend my time attempting to convey the monumental impacts automated vehicle technology will have on society as we know it, and the utmost need to understand what's coming down the road, so to speak.
To begin, I want to share a quote that I feel summarizes why this technology will happen. “It's not fantasy,” says the CFO of Suncor in regard to a fully automated fleet of driverless trucks operating in their mining operations. He went on to explain, “That will take 800 people off our site. At an average...of $200,000 per person, you can see the savings we’re going to get from an operations perspective.”
That's the cold calculus of self-driving technology.
Humans are expensive. Their labour is expensive. Their benefits can be expensive. They're costly to train. They get injured. They get tired. They make mistakes. They drink and use medications. They get distracted. They look at their phones. They go on strikes. They get involved in lawsuits. They get angry and depressed. They have physical and biological limits. They quit.
Machines do none of these things. Machines are the perfect worker as long as the cost is right and the output is good.
When it comes to driverless trucks, the cost of fuel also enters the equation. Trucks that drive themselves offer incredible efficiencies in fuel costs. Driverless trucks can travel longer distances in shorter times, thanks to not needing to sleep. They can travel in convoys to increase aerodynamic efficiencies. Fewer accidents can save a lot in human and capital costs. There are many reasons driving the adoption of this technology, and billions of dollars—both invested and at stake—for those who get there first.
I'm here speaking only a week after the first death of a pedestrian by a self-driving car, but that accident itself says a lot about the status of this technology. It's already as good as a human, such that people already expect superhuman abilities from it. Why didn't its radar and laser-based system see the woman before tragically colliding with her in the dark? Why didn't the car immediately detect her and immediately slam on the brakes?
We are talking about a matter of seconds, where below-average human drivers would have caused the same death, just as they cause over 3,000 deaths a day and 1.3 million deaths every year all over the world. The first human being has died, but this technology will save lives, money, and time, and it will impact our economies in ways governments needed to start preparing for years ago.
Don't be fooled into thinking this is just about eliminating driving jobs. The automation of vehicular transport will ripple through the economy. Think of cars and trucks as blood cells in a circulatory system, carrying oxygen throughout the body in the form of income and spending. There are businesses that depend on drivers spending their money. There are businesses that depend on car ownership. There are businesses that depend on vehicles getting into accidents, parking, and requiring insurance. These businesses are themselves then depended upon by other businesses, and so on, like falling dominoes.
The challenge that lies ahead for lawmakers is in helping guide this process in a way that doesn't discourage its advancement but enables it to flourish, while leaving as many people as possible better off. This means not just assisting people in learning new skills for new jobs, but also creating a safety net that acknowledges the transformation of work in this 21st century of great uncertainty.
Requiring former drivers to jump through an arduous system of forms and bureaucrats to receive income as they retrain and search for the next opportunity for employment is not the best way forward in a world of work where more and more people are between increasingly insecure jobs of shorter duration and greater monthly income variance.
This is why I also believe any conversation about automation of future work requires a conversation about a basic income guarantee. You're ahead of the curve in that you're already testing it, but I do wish to urge you of its importance. Self-driving tech will absolutely create winners and losers, and all of those who lose cannot be ignored or expected to just easily find a new job with equal pay, hours, benefits, skill requirements, security, meaning, and distance from home. It is imperative that you as lawmakers work to make sure that technology like driverless vehicles, and the AI that makes it possible, effectively works for everyone, not just its owners. Without that focus, danger lies ahead. It's up to you to negotiate our way around these dangers as best you can, so we can all arrive at a place our ancestors perhaps never even imagined possible.
Chairperson, thank you for inviting BlackBerry to speak to you today about connected and autonomous vehicles.
As this committee is aware, the automotive industry is undergoing a major transformation wherein a collection of computers, software, sensors, actuators, and connected networks will eventually take over the driving function from humans. BlackBerry is playing a leadership role in this transformation. We are proud to be a Canadian company that employs tremendous Canadian talent and constantly innovates to be at the forefront of technological progress.
BlackBerry QNX has been a trusted technology supplier to the automotive industry for approximately 20 years. Its software is used by more than 40 automakers, is in over 60 million cars, and will provide the foundation for autonomous drive systems into the future. The new generation of vehicles will increasingly be dependent on software and connections to external networks to perform critical functions. This will present increased safety risks if the vehicle systems are not developed in accordance with best practices and industry standards for safety and security.
BlackBerry has developed a framework of disciplines for securing modern cars to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks. We work closely with automakers and their suppliers and we know they are taking the issues of safety and security very seriously. They are aware of the public's concern and are aware that failure to adopt reasonable measures to ensure the safety and security of the vehicles will negatively impact the adoption of this technology, not to mention their reputations.
This is not to suggest that government does not have an important role to play. Governments have a responsibility to ensure that the next generation of vehicles is safely deployed and does not introduce unreasonable risk. Governments should endeavour to harmonize regulations across jurisdictions such that a patchwork of divergent laws and standards does not emerge. This will require coordination between multiple departments and levels of government, including foreign governments. The sharing of test results, ideas, and experiences among agencies and jurisdictions will also provide an efficient way for government to keep pace with rapid technological changes.
Thank you for your question.
It's a bit tricky to make precise predictions for this—we need a crystal ball—but there will definitely be a kind of hybrid traffic. If you look at the pace of evolution of the technology, right now we have achieved ADSs, automated driving systems, that are commercially available between levels 2 and 3. I assume probably in 2030, 12 years from now, you'll probably have level 4 vehicles commercially available, but probably not level 5. I would really doubt that.
There are so many parameters involved in terms of the business model: social acceptance, how the OEMs will deal with the marketing strategy in selling these automated vehicles and autonomous vehicles, how the insurance companies will react to that, how the legislation will evolve, what kind of collaboration there will be between people in charge of the road infrastructure versus the people in charge of the vehicles, all the different sharing mobility strategies—
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I have to say this is going to be a monumental process going probably decades ahead into the future. I want to ask you the same questions I asked the previous witnesses who were here about a half an hour ago.
It doesn't necessarily attach itself to the technology, because the technology is going to be driven by two sources: the customer, in terms of establishing their needs, and then the industry itself to try to meet those needs with that new technology. What I want to discuss is how we as government, with U.S. partners, prepare for that new technology when it comes to establishing conducive investments for infrastructure.
The second example is ensuring that we facilitate the integration of methods of transportation as it relates to road, rail, air, and water, because we're not just talking about cars on the roads, buses on the roads, trucks on the roads; we're also talking about ships in the water, trains on the tracks, and airplanes in the air.
The last one is business logistics and distribution to ensure that lobbies, vehicles, and methods of transportation are moving around nationally and internationally, that they integrate methods of transportation while integrating the different business and logistics distribution interests.
I would throw one more in there as it relates to revenue opportunities. There is no question that with the new ability to collect data, there are going to be new revenue opportunities for those who are in the industry, but equally as important, if not more important, is that there are going to be revenue opportunities for customers to be able to collect that data with their own methods and do what they want with it to create revenue opportunities for themselves individually.
With that all said, I want to pick your brains and listen to you in terms of your thoughts on those different bullets that I've brought up, and I'm looking for the “how” to the “what” with respect to attaching ourselves as government and as partners and preparing ourselves with infrastructure, integration, business logistics, and data integration.
It's all for you.
From a monetization perspective, I think the bigger change in automotive, although we all talk about autonomous drive and automated drive, will be the change in the architecture of the vehicle. There's going to be an ecosystem built around the car.
The best comparison is Android for the phone. There will be an Android for the car. There will be two or three ecosystems, just as today there are iOS and Android, but it won't be Android, because there are very specific properties around security and safety.
However, I think there's a huge opportunity. The car makers are looking at a completely different business model of how to make money in the future. Part of it is data, and the other part is how they sell services into the car. The way people will own cars will be very different in the future. You may own a convertible during the summer and then a sport utility during the winter, but people are going to want their features to follow those cars—seating positions, for example. When people talk about a smart phone on wheels, it actually is headed in that direction.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
This discussion is exciting. I will dive in right away.
Mr. Gingras, with your presentation, a light bulb went off in my head when you talked about the just-in-time model, which we launched when greenhouse gases were not such a known problem.
Do these technological developments in transportation also require reflection on the need to revise our economic models, or are we strictly focusing on the notions of transportation, vehicles and automation?
I just wanted to mention that as far as monetization of data is concerned, I think it's important, as regards the future, that we stress that people do own their data. If as lawmakers you set the precedent that people own their data, then it makes sense not only from a privacy perspective that the data cannot be leaked and resold, but also that when it is sold and people agree to its being sold, they receive something in return for it.
It's interesting too that there's data that most people think of as data, but there's also ambient data, which is the data that we generate just by being ourselves, doing nothing, walking along the street near a camera. There's a lot of data out there that isn't necessarily seen as data, but it is.
Mr. Courville and Mr. Wall, I have a more technical question for you.
We always hear that automated vehicles are safer, since their computers react faster than humans. However, all the examples that I am given are where the car stops faster than I could in order to avoid an accident.
But last year, I managed miraculously, but also thanks to my driving technique, to avoid being involved in a pileup caused by black ice. In that case, the solution was not to stop, but to perform a controlled skid. Are automated vehicles capable of doing that?
Yes, I think that the algorithms are going to be sophisticated enough to understand black ice, slippage of the wheels, etc. They'll be able to identify more quickly than you what's happening to the vehicle from a geometry perspective.
It's also one of the reasons that I believe autonomous driving is further out than, say, Uber would like to claim. Uber has a business reason for wanting autonomous drive. It's their business model. They don't survive without it.
There's very little testing in Canada for autonomous drive. We have an autonomous car at QNX, and in the winter it behaves much differently on snow and ice. We're nowhere near being prepared to handle those situations. I think people are still better at handling those situations, but I think the technology, with machine learning and AI, will be able to react appropriately to those types of situations.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
A witness on the previous panel pre-empted my question by describing the period when a horse overlapped with a car on the road. It's amazing that we're here talking about driverless cars.
I was reading a report by the U.K. House of Lords in 2017 entitled “Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The future?”. From the report, the study discussed the transitional period when traditional vehicles would share the road with CVs and AVs. The report expressed concern that the effects of CVs and AVs sharing the road with traditional vehicles are not fully understood. It recommended that the U.K. government undertake mixed-fleet modelling to inform policy development.
My first question is this: what modelling work, if any, has been undertaken here in Canada to assess the impact of a mixed fleet of autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles on Canadian roads?
That's very admirable. We wholeheartedly agree with that recommendation, because humans by definition are unpredictable. You're absolutely right. The reality is that it will be a mixed fleet, as we discussed earlier.
With regard to what John was saying earlier, the testing we do in inclement weather with all of the sensors is not so much to handle when things are going well but to handle when things are unpredictable and things aren't going well. It's to handle things we haven't foreseen and to find out how we can react to that intelligently. Can cars communicate to each other? John mentioned artificial intelligence, so we wholeheartedly agree.
Part of what we do with the sensors is to deal with obstacles that are not predicted and whatnot. That's one of the other reasons that we have a long way to go before we get to level 5. One of the things we tend to say is that there are connected cars, there are automated cars, and then there are autonomous cars. We tend to jump from connected to autonomous, but there's automated, which is a major step. You're seeing that already with a lot of automated features in the cars. The cars are getting safer, and those are all building blocks on the way to autonomous cars.
HMI problems, human-machine interaction problems, are very critical. Actually, there are a lot of unconscious details when we interact between humans—for example, the body language. If you take a pedestrian simply crossing a road, he will probably look at the car and see the driver. Without any talking, he understands that the driver has seen him or her, and he will say he's confident because the car is slowing down. We don't have this kind of interaction with a fully autonomous vehicle yet, and we have no clue on how to predict it precisely.
There's a lot of model-building with psychologists in connective science, and mathematicians trying to develop driver models and HMI models in order to have safer interactions between these highly autonomous vehicles or highly automated driving functions and humans.
To give you an example, there are some German car makers who have developed graphic interfaces with a big smile on the front of the cars, showing the pedestrian that the machine has seen you, so you can safely cross the street. We are exploring all kinds of solutions in that aspect.
This is not a trivial problem. This is also one tiny problem among an ocean of problems before we reach a full, mature solution at level 5. We're not there yet.
Thank you for your question.
I have actually been at Transport Canada's and PMG Technologies' Motor Vehicle Testing Centre in Blainville for two days. In collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada and Transport Canada, we held a workshop to create what we call a community of practice, in other words, a network composed of all Canadian stakeholders in the road transport and smart vehicle sectors, with a view to developing a national strategy in the area.
The workshop brought together experts from NRC and Transport Canada as well as from universities such as Waterloo and Sherbrooke. There were also representatives from certain organizations in Quebec and Ontario, but also from the City of Calgary, since tests are being done there.
That's one of the things we're testing. If you think about a human on a country road where there are no markers, how do we judge where we are if we're in the middle of a snowstorm? We're probably looking at tree lines, hydro poles, ditches, etc. We have to teach the machines, the computers in the car, to think a bit like we do, and as we were talking about earlier, act in a safer fashion.
These are basic problems. If you look at the DMV in California and the number of disengagements in autonomous cars, guess what? Most of them have to do simply with rain. When it starts to rain, the sensors start to fail.
We've learned here, for instance, in Ottawa, because we have interesting weather at times—which is great for testing, by the way—that LIDAR is not very good in the snow or the rain or when there's slush on your bumper, whereas radar is. We've learned that yellow lines on the road are much better than white lines. Just by what I'm sharing here, you can see this is the kind of learning and testing that we're doing.