Vancouver City Hall ponders driverless cars, B.C. gov stalls in neutral

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Vancouver city councillor wants city staff to study the implications of the potential for driverless cars in Vancouver.

Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs’ motion going to city council on February 23 said the city’s four-year-old Transportation 2040 plan didn’t contemplate this technology, which is being tested elsewhere in North America.

“Technology for autonomous or driverless vehicles was then virtually unknown and in its early development stages, with only a single jurisdiction in the world with legislation to permit the use of such technology,” said Meggs’ motion. “Driverless or autonomous vehicle technology is now progressing so rapidly that Ontario has permitted testing of such vehicles in 2016 and may allow regular use in the near future.”

The motion said driverless cars open challenges for the privacy of data collected about drivers and their habits, but also offers opportunities to increase safety and efficiency “to free large areas of urban land for better use.”

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) forecasts that 75% of cars on the road by 2040 will be automated. Sales could begin as soon as 2020. In 2010, two driverless cars travelled 8,000 miles from Parma to Shanghai. According to IEEE: “The increased use of driverless cars will be the catalyst for transforming vehicular travel over the next 28 years, sparking dramatic changes in intersections, traffic flows, highways and even drivers’ licences.”

A report by City of Vancouver would be miles ahead of the provincial government, which appears to be stuck in neutral.

Under Freedom of Information, ICBC, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and Attorney General’s ministry were asked for reports about the potential use, cost/benefit analysis, feasibility and legal, safety and economic implications of driverless vehicles from 2014 to 2016.

All three organizations said they had no records.

ICBC said in its response that it “has not commissioned any research reports” on the subject, but its manager of driver and vehicle licensing, Mark Francis, has attended conventions where driverless vehicles have been discussed.