London

What do you think about driverless vehicles in London? The city wants to know

The City of London is working to get ready for fully autonomous vehicles and the team in charge wants your input.

Residents are asked to share their thoughts as the city works on developing a plan

In a statement, the city says it recognized that "eventually, the integration of driverless technology will touch nearly all aspects of Londoners' lives. (AVIN)

Are you concerned about the safety of automated vehicles? Or maybe, you can't wait to get into one. Either way, the City of London is asking residents to share their thoughts about the issue as it works on developing a plan. 

In a statement, the city says it recognized that "eventually, the integration of driverless technology will touch nearly all aspects of Londoners' lives – from street design to physical health, environmental sustainability, accessibility, and data security."

It's an effort for the city to be ready for fully automated vehicles if they get approval to be on Ontario roads. Last January, the province allowed vehicles in Ontario with just a passenger on board or a remote operator monitoring the ride. Previously, the province required someone sitting in the driver's seat.

Stratford is home to the province's demonstration zone - a site where Ontario-based companies can test and showcase connected and automated vehicles. (Shutterstock / chombosan)

"We don't want to be reactively responding to that technology. We want to do our best to prepare for it," said Jon Kostyniuk, a traffic and transportation engineer with the city.

A planning team with the city has identified areas of focus to be the lens through which any municipal plan is designed. They include issues like environmental sustainability and data governance.

"With these types of vehicles, they can track where you're going a little bit more so we want to make sure that the public is comfortable and that any privacy security systems are in place to help manage that," Kostyniuk added.

There may also be opportunity to retrofit some of the London's existing traffic signals to support driverless automation. But any of those changes could carry a significant price tag, depending on how much the city decides to dip in.

At this point, Kostyniuk says, they're focused on hearing from the community. Residents have until Feb. 21 to weigh in

About an hour away, the small city of Stratford, is one possible model for London. The popular tourist destination is paving its way to becoming a world leader in the industry. 

"The work is going to have to be done at some point in time. You can wait and be a laggard and do it later but it doesn't get you any further," mayor Dan Mathieson said.

Dan Mathieson is the mayor of Stratford. (Stratford and District Chamber of Commerce)

Stratford applied to be a part of the province's Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN),  a group tasked with developing the province's automatic vehicle sector. The city was chosen to house a demonstration zone where the technology can be tested and showcased.

"We have all the automakers that are based here in Ontario such as Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Chrysler - they've all been through here," said Mathieson. "They've looked at what they can do on these stretches of road and how they can improve."

He believes we're looking to a future, albeit distant, where driverless cars, or even transit, rule the road.

"It's been very exciting. It's the next wave of technology and an opportunity for us to understand, at the front end, not only the vehicles and the parts that are made for them, but also on the infrastructure side of things, how we can improve the quality of life here."

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