Corp Comm Connects

Ontario needs to prepare for driverless cars

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca says the province needs to get ready for new automotive technology that will mean jobs and changes to the way we get around.
May 28, 2015
By Tess Kalinowski

Ontario needs to start planning its transportation network and its regulations for new automotive technology, including driverless and electric cars, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said on Thursday.

Twelve U.S. states already have regulations or are contemplating legislation governing driverless vehicles, he said.

"The potential reductions in vehicle collisions, the implications for the auto insurance industry or the litigation or the health care industry are enormous," said Del Duca.

Ontario also needs to embrace the job creation value of the new technology, he told reporters following a lunch speech at the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

"Cars are really computers on wheels now. The state of Michigan is very aggressively pursuing this as a concept," he said.

Michigan has allowed the testing of driverless cars since 2013.

That's in part because it recognizes those vehicles will fuel jobs in its automotive sector in the next 10 to 20 years, putting it in competition with states like California.

"Ontario can't be left out," said Del Duca, who claimed he's "not a tech savy guy."

"We have a strong tradition as a car manufacturing jurisdiction. So to me we need that regulatory framework in place sooner rather than later," he said.

At the same time, the province needs to encourage consumers to take advantage of the rapidly dropping prices of electric automobiles.

"In 10 years, electric vehicle charging stations should be as ubiquitous in Ontario as your neighbourhood Tim Hortons and no public building - no building generally - should be built without this infrastructure in place," he told the business crowd gathered at a downtown hotel.

Germany and England are also looking at rules to govern driverless cars on their roads.

Licensing, insurance and who is responsible if a vehicle fails and causes a collision are among the issues being considered.

The Conference Board of Canada recently issued a study saying that driverless cars could save money, cut travel time and make travel safer.

Its study suggested that traffic fatalities could drop to about 400 a year from the current 2,000, according to a report in the Toronto Star earlier this month.

The number of traffic fatalities could fall to 400 a year from the current 2,000.