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Feb 3, 2020

5 min. read

A look at how automated vehicles will impact Canadian roads, today and tomorrow.

Not that long ago, self-driving cars could only be found in pages of sci-fi novels. But automated vehicles (AVs) are no longer futurist fodder. In Canada, experts predict we're just 20 years away from fully autonomous vehicles ruling our public roads.

Most automakers already offer many automated features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-centering steering and enhanced communication and navigation systems. Though navigating countless studies and research about these features can be a daunting task.

That's why CAA developed a dedicated AV portal: caa.ca/avadvocacy/avs. You can learn about the AVs of today and tomorrow. You'll find information about automated technology and what's coming next, as well as benefits and possible pitfalls.

Driverless cars surely won't be perfect, but they are expected to do a much better job following the rules of the road than their human counterparts. Research shows driver error is a leading factor in vehicle collisions. The Conference Board of Canada predicts AVs will prevent 90 percent of traffic collisions.

Transport Canada also recognizes the potential of driverless cars to enhance safety, mobility and productivity. "In 2016, 1,898 people lost their lives in motor vehicle collisions in Canada," says Minister of Transport Marc Garneau. In a statement outlining AV testing guidelines, he added: "It is our goal that automated vehicles, in time and in concert with other policy measures, will help us drastically reduce this number."

In addition to safety, mobility is another key benefit to automation. "Self-driving cars could create a world of possibilities for people who are otherwise not able to take the wheel, including the elderly and those with a disability," says Kristine D'Arbelles, senior manager of public affairs with CAA National. "Nearly three quarters of Canadians agree that AVs will improve accessibility for all."

Productivity is expected to increase as well. According to a report commissioned by CAA, every year Canadians spend more than 11.5 million hours stuck in traffic. Even a small reduction in daily commuting provides more time for work, family or leisure pursuits.

While this new tech increases safety and mobility, it likewise has a few downsides—namely privacy and driver complacency. Drivers must recognize that today's technology isn't a replacement for human skills behind the wheel. Driving still requires your full attention, including shoulder checks for blind spots, use of mirrors and careful lane changes.

Automated features collect reams of data about your movements and contacts—data that's estimated to be worth $750 billion by 2030. "CAA believes that drivers should be aware of what is being collected and they decide who gets that data," says D'Arbelles.

The AV world is changing fast. To stay up to date about new tech and the latest developments, check caa.ca/avadvocacy/avs.

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