Autonomous Vehicles Tactical Plan for the City of Toronto

Tactical plan going before city council at the end of October has the potential to be a road map for other Canadian cities

AVs may be in the City of Toronto’s future, but that doesn’t mean the city can’t be fully prepared for their arrival.

On Oct. 17, city staff presented the Automated Vehicles Tactical Plan for the City of Toronto to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee. The committee adopted the plan, which will now go before city council for final approval. Toronto currently has a goal of being emissions free by 2050; with the tactical plan, it wants to be ready for AVs by 2022.

“This report will be reference material for cities elsewhere to see what they should be doing”

Judy Farvolden, Executive Director, University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute

Within the plan is an AV Readiness mandate, which outlines tests and other research the city plans to undertake to ensure a transition to automated transportation is as smooth as possible.

Those steps include an automated shuttle trial at the Rouge Hill GO station (commuter transit) that will look at first-mile/last-mile issues, a transportation innovation zone, response and incident preparation tests, and human interaction tests. As well, the city will also research areas like automated snow removal on sidewalks and the impact of AVs on land-use planning.

Supporting city goals

“It’s a general approach and philosophy we took; our city council, our community has always determined how it wants Toronto to grow in the future and the kind of city it wants to become,” says Ryan Lanyon, manager of transportation and innovation with the City of Toronto. “The gap [we want to address] is how we achieve those goals and become the community we want to be, rather than allow the technology to shift us away from those goals.”

Judy Farvolden, executive director of the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute, was at the committee meeting last week. In an interview, she says she is glad the plan is keeping with the city’s goals.

“Technology doesn’t change the way you run your city,” she says. “It doesn’t change the goals you have for your city; it’s just a hammer.”

Farvolden adds she would like to see Toronto inspire other cities.

“I think this report will be reference material for cities elsewhere to see what they should be doing,” she says. “It’s a statement of what’s understood today and what remains to be understood and the plan for incorporating these services into cities so they can achieve these goals.”

Provides a foundation

Along with the readiness mandate, the plan is intended to provide a foundation for a future transportation system that supports objectives in seven “broad directions,” according to a staff report: social equity and health, environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, data privacy, road safety and security, transportation system efficiency and integrated mobility on public transit.

“A lot of our planning has been based on the transition from the horse-drawn carriage to the automobile”

Ryan Lanyon, Manager, Transportation Policy and Innovation, City of Toronto

In making sure the city successfully moves forward on these directions in the next three years, Lanyon says his team started by looking back.

“A lot of our planning has been based on the transition from the horse-drawn carriage to the automobile,” he says. “From our research in that transition, we came to understand a lot of unintended consequences that weren’t predicted through that transition that have created problems today in our transportation system … around road safety, around emissions, around congestion.”

The AV Readiness Tactical Plan is set to go before Toronto City Council on Oct. 29-30, where a recommendation to approve it and move forward will be put to a vote.