Calgary plans for fully autonomous cars on its streets by 2021, if not sooner

Fully self-driving cars will likely be on Calgary streets within five years, according to the city's transportation boss, who is already working on plans to ensure they can be integrated smoothly into existing traffic patterns.

Major transportation plan revision due in 2019, but councillors want report on new technologies by March 2017

A prototype of Google's own self-driving vehicle is seen here at a media preview of the company's current autonomous vehicles in Mountain View, Calif. on Sept. 29, 2015. (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

Fully self-driving cars will likely be on Calgary streets within five years, according to the city's transportation boss, who is already working on plans to ensure they can be integrated smoothly into existing traffic patterns.

"We're not quite there, yet but we're getting ready," said Mac Logan, the city's general manager of transportation.

"The world's changing in a big hurry."

Logan said autonomous vehicles will factor heavily in to the next major update to the city's transportation plan, due in 2019.

But a pair of city councillors want an update even sooner, calling on city staff to prepare a detailed report with "recommendations, potential pilot opportunities and next steps" by March 2017.

"We need to be conscious of our investment because we're planning for capital spending five years down the road, 10 years down the road," said Coun. Evan Woolley.

He and Coun. Peter Demong introduced a motion which passed at Monday's council meeting calling for the report on new transportation technologies.

Infrastructure planning

That includes self-driving cars, in particular, but also other things that are increasingly expected to change the way we move goods and people, such as delivery drones and electric cars that require readily accessible charging stations.

"We have billions of dollars in things planned," Woolley said. "We need to be very very smart about if we're going to be building obsolete infrastructure."

For example, Woolley said spending millions on park-and-ride lots for future LRT lines may not be as necessary in the future as it is today, if certain technologies take hold.

Mac Logan, the City of Calgary's general manager of transportation, expects to see fully autonomous vehicles operating on city streets by 2021, if not sooner. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

Logan said it is still to be determined how those technologies will impact transportation in Calgary but it's only a question of when — not if — they arrive.

"Those cars are coming so we have to figure out how the roads are going to respond," he said.

With files from The Calgary Eyeopener


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