Senators Visit the U of A to Learn about Connected Vehicles

senators Senators Michael MacDonald, Betty Unger and Terry Mercer, and Dr. Tony Qiu show off smartphones that were used to help demonstrate some of the notifications a driver might receive in a connected vehicle.

A future where your car can talk to you is fast becoming a reality. Realizing this, members of the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications visited the University of Alberta’s Centre for Smart Transportation in Edmonton on September 20, 2016 to learn about connected vehicles.

Members of the committee got a firsthand look at how connected technology will drastically change how Canadians get around. Dr. Tony Qiu, Director of the CST, took senators on an Edmonton Transit smart bus equipped with connected vehicle technology to demonstrate some of the potential applications in improving safety and efficiency.The ability for vehicles to "talk" to other vehicles and with other infrastructure such as traffic lights means that drivers can be more aware of what is happening around them. For example, drivers may receive a voice notification when they are driving at unsafe speeds, following cars too closely, or when there is a pedestrian about to cross the road.

“There is no question that connected vehicle technology will be of great use to Canadians, and probably in ways none of us can foresee. That is precisely why our committee must study this emerging technology. We need to understand how it can help us, and at what cost. I look forward to learning more about this issue,” said Senator Terry Mercer.

The committee heard the technology has widespread implications for city planning. It will make driving safer and make more efficient use of existing road space. Installing the necessary infrastructure can also be done at a minimal cost, particularly when compared to alternative methods of easing congestion like road widening and new construction.

As part of the ACTIVE-AURORA test bed project, connected vehicle technology has been installed already on three corridors in Edmonton, providing state-of-the-art testing facilities that will attract interest from top researchers, government agencies and industry groups.

“This technology is coming quickly. It comes with the promise of faster commutes, fewer collisions and smarter planning. At the same time, there are legitimate privacy concerns that cannot be overlooked. It is essential that we understand the implications of this transformative technology before it takes root,” said Senator Michael MacDonald.

The committee will be studying the implications of connected vehicle technology, and the Senate intends to release a report in March 2017.