Self-driving cars and infrastructure upgrades hailed as 2018 auto show kicks off

The first day of the North American International Automotive Show highlighted the importance of keeping up with the rapidly-changing technology industry.

'If you have smart cars in a dumb city it's not going to work too well,' said Ray Tanguay

Ray Tanguay, Automotive Advisor to the Canadian Government, speaking at the North American International Auto Show 2018. (NAIAS)

The Canadian government's auto sector advisor kicked off the North American International Auto Show on Sunday with a simple bit of evidence that the industry is not where consumers want it to be: 

"If you think about the car industry today does it meet customer expectations?" Ray Tanguay asked.

"If so, why are people that are driving luxury vehicles have their smart phones and Google Maps beside them?"

Centred around technology's evolution, Tanguay's talk highlighted how the automotive industry is lagging behind.

"If we're going to try and meet customer expectation in my opinion we need to learn about speed. Yeah, cars can go fast, but management has to be faster," explained Tanguay.

"The deployment of global use of automated vehicles we don't see that until about 2040," Tanguay said.

Tanguay said while the technology is moving along, infrastructure in urban and rural areas are not there yet. He adds several universities in Canada including Montreal and Waterloo are working on creating a digital world and comparing it to reality for self-driving vehicles.

"If you have smart cars in a dumb city it's not going to work too well," said Tanguay adding that the collaboration between Ontario and Michigan is important for autonomous vehicles to be viable across borders.


What are the barriers to innovation?

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao addressed similar concerns Sunday afternoon at the Cobo Centre.

"There are legitimate public concerns that must be addressed before autonomous driving technology can reach its full potential in our society," said Chao.

Elaine Chao, U.S Secretary of Transportation speaking at the Cobo centre for the North American International Auto Show. (NAIAS)

Chao noted that in order for the United States to stay dominant in the auto sector, the U.S. government must remove barriers around innovation. So far, three initiative have been created to push that forward. 

"The department of transportation published new voluntary guidelines testing integration of autonomous vehicles. It's called automate driving systems 2.0, a vision for safety," explained Chao. 

Chao said the guidelines will be consistently updated to keep up with innovation. 

She also says the government has made a call out to identify regulatory and infrastructure barriers to innovation.