Do You Want Self-Driving Cars in Mississauga?

Southern Ontario has a “perfect ecosystem” to support research and testing of driverless cars, and Canada could be one of the first on the road with self-driving vehicles, a new report finds.

“Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are poised to revolutionize not only transportation but the way people live and work throughout the world,” said KPMG International’s global head of public transport Richard Threlfall.

“There will be economic benefits, because the time we currently spend driving a car becomes productive time in an autonomous vehicle that can be spent working, relaxing or sleeping.”

The 2018 KPMG Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI), released Jan. 17, examined the key factors required for countries to meet the challenges of a world of self-driving vehicles and ranked Canada seventh in overall readiness.

The AVRI is the first study of its kind, examining where countries - Canada ranked seventh overall - are today in terms of progress and capacity for adapting AV technology.

The 10 countries most prepared for the future of autonomous transportation of those researched, according to the AVRI, are as follows:

1. Netherlands

2. Singapore

3. United States

4. Sweden

5. United Kingdom

6. Germany

7. Canada

8. United Arab Emirates

9. New Zealand

10. South Korea

The Index evaluates each country according to four pillars which are integral to a country’s capacity to adopt and integrate autonomous vehicles, including policy and legislation, technology and innovation, infrastructure, and consumer acceptance.

The pillars are comprised of a number of variables that reflect the wide range of factors that impact a country’s AV readiness, from the availability of electric vehicle charging stations, to AV technology research and development, to the population’s acceptance of the technology, to the regulatory environment.

The AVRI found Canada rates well on technology and innovation, with the highest possible score for industry partnerships and high scores on both research and development hubs and AV technology company headquarters.

Then there’s social benefit, “including a vast reduction in the 1.3 million people killed each year in car accidents, and accessibility for those who currently cannot drive, because of age or disability,” said Threlfall.

“However, with the tremendous opportunity comes significant challenges that have to be addressed in order for countries to be able to realize the benefits of AVs.”

But Canada has very few patents in this area.

It also received maximum marks on government-funded AV pilots, with the province of Ontario having taken the lead as the only jurisdiction to have issued permits for AV testing on public roads.

In the last year, the province has issued seven permits to companies including Uber, tire-maker Continental, automotive supplier Magna and QNX, a Blackberry subsidiary.

“Southern Ontario has a perfect ecosystem to support AV research and testing,” said national leader of infrastructure at KPMG Gary Webster.

“It is the fourth largest exporter of vehicles in the world, with manufacturing facilities for GM, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, Toyota, Honda and their supply chains. Its Waterloo-Toronto Innovation Corridor includes research universities and technology companies, convincing Uber and General Motors to move jobs there.”

With infrastructure, Canada is well-rated for roads and mobile networks, with its major telecoms providers successfully testing 5G network technology -- although other variables lead to a middling rank overall.

Canada is one of the leaders when it comes to consumer acceptance, in terms of people living in an AV test area, and is well-rated by both KPMG’s Change Readiness Index and the World Economic Forum.

The Netherlands ranks consistently high--in the top four across all four pillars--with strengths including widespread acceptance of electric cars and a high density of charging stations, a robust telecommunications network, vital for directing AVs, and large scale AV road tests planned. Others in the top five display a range of strengths, with Singapore ranking first in policy and legislation and consumer acceptance, the U.S. and Sweden ranked first and second respectively in technology and innovation, and the U.K. ranked in the top five for three pillars.

Overall, a country’s economic development correlates strongly with preparedness for AVs, however looking deeper, the AVRI highlights some consistent attributes among the most prepared countries. These include governments willing to regulate and manage AV development, excellent roads, mobile network infrastructure, and private sector investment and innovation.

“Planning today for an AV future is essential, because it is not a question of if, but when, AVs becomes ubiquitous,” said Threlfall.

“Embracing partnerships between government and the private sector can speed technology development, while helping ensure that application of AV meets public policy objectives. Finally, it is important to engage all stakeholders — government, business and citizens — with AV planning. It’s not just about transportation; we need to be prepared for the impact of AVs on all aspects of life in the future.”

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