Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium
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Key Considerations for Smart Vehicle Shuttle Technology Planning & Deployment in Canada


“Smart Vehicle Shuttle Technology as a Transit Solution: Commercial Considerations for Planning and Deployment in Canada” is a report that is a part of CUTRIC’s Knowledge Series in Low Carbon Smart Mobility.


This report assesses the feasibility of smart shuttle vehicle technology as part of transit systems and how this technology should be integrated across Canadian cities. Autonomous shuttles are a type of “smart shuttle”. Autonomous shuttles are programmed to move along predetermined routes. An operator is still on board to manually takeover operation of the shuttle if the need should arise.      

As the Canadian government and transit agencies across the country shift away from fossil fuel intensive technologies, there is a significant opportunity for autonomous transit systems.


Smart Vehicle Technology Research in Canada

CUTRIC is one of 15 organizations awarded a research contract by Transport Canada as a part of their Program to Advance Connectivity and Automation in the Transportation System (ACATS). This funding allowed CUTRIC to complete research that demonstrates the opportunities and challenges associated with autonomous shuttle deployments in Canada. 


CUTRIC’s Rout∑.i™ predictive modelling tool was used to simulate the performance of autonomous shuttles on routes proposed by municipal and transit staff in nine Canadian cities: Calgary, Surrey, Brampton, Edmonton, Vancouver, York Region, Montréal, and Québec City. This modelling helped CUTRIC analyze feasibility, route timing, charging requirements, energy consumption and ridership. As a result, municipalities can better understand how autonomous shuttles can be used and the impact it would have on their existing transportation system. Among the other organizations conducting smart vehicle technology research in Canada, some projects included:


City of Toronto

The City of Toronto piloted an automated transit shuttle on public roads. The City of Toronto, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), and Metrolinx conducted on-road testing of the West Rouge Automated Shuttle Trial.


City of Calgary

The City of Calgary conducted two projects for smart vehicle technology research. They tested an autonomous shuttle to connect light rail transit between the Calgary Zoo and the Telus Spark Science Centre. They also created a connected vehicle test bed corridor to test connected vehicle technologies, support shorter travel times for emergency vehicles, and reduce the risk of collisions.  


City of Vancouver

The City of Vancouver developed an educational toolkit for connected and automated vehicles through research and hosting workshops. They also developed a project plan that included goals and key performance indicators for future research and testing in this field. 


Lessons Learned From Previous Pilot Deployments

CUTRIC’s report includes reviews of several previous autonomous vehicles and autonomous shuttle pilot deployments. Here are a few of the lessons learned mentioned in the report: 


  • Predictive modelling that includes energy consumption assessments, charging times, route complexity, and traffic interaction scenarios is crucial (Ohio, United States). 
  • It’s important to monitor the reactions of cyclists, passengers/riders, and other pedestrians during subtle deployments (Oslo, Norway). 
  • Documentation for autonomous versus manual mode is crucial to reduce the risk of negative user perceptions. (Ontario, Canada) 


A primary lesson learned from the pilot deployments is the need for appropriate charging infrastructure. The strategic placement of charging locations is a key factor in mitigating energy consumption and power grid stress. The report concludes that the integration of charging systems for autonomous shuttles with other light-duty electric vehicles will optimize charging energy consumption, and thus, play a key role in the future deployment of these systems at a low operational cost. As transit agencies and governments around the world, including Canada, continue to conduct pilot deployments. It is crucial to research the successes, challenges and failures of past shuttle deployments. CUTRIC’s report contains more detailed information about pilot deployments in Canada and around the world. Download our report here!


Key Findings in the Latest Smart Vehicle Technology Research

There are a number of important key findings that will help drive forward the success of autonomous shuttle planning and deployment. 

There has been a significant amount of research conducted towards autonomous sensor communication between vehicle-to-infrastructure, vehicle-to-vehicle, and vehicle-to-everything. Autonomous sensors on shuttles today can identify pedestrians, vehicles, cyclists, and other moving objects that are within the direct path of the shuttle. The sensors can also identify the speed of external objects or impediments and the shuttle will adjust its speed accordingly. 

CUTRIC also recently completed a technical feasibility study of autonomous shuttles deployed within a test transit agency environment in the Canadian Landscape. CUTRIC’s Rout∑.i™ modelling tool used input data such as route geometry, topography, traffic impediments, and more to generate energy-consumption predictions.


To mirror low energy, average energy, and excessive energy use situations in the calculations, three separate duty cycles are considered, namely light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty scenarios. The findings of CUTRIC’s study allow transit agencies to understand the energy load of autonomous shuttles. Download our report to read more about the key findings in the latest smart vehicle technology research.


Standardization of Smart Vehicle Planning & Deployment

Standardization of smart vehicle planning and deployment is crucial for the success of integrating autonomous shuttles and other autonomous transit systems. Topics of standardization that are covered in CUTRIC’s report include: 


  • Communications – Standardization of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication protocols and standards.
  • Operations – Standardization of DSRC units and other road-side infrastructures with multiple manufacturers, latency period, and control room protocol. 
  • Cyber Security – Standardization of cyber security protocols will reduce the risk of significant security and privacy violations. 
  • Passenger Safety – Standardization of rider accessibility and public safety policies. 
  • Ridership Strategies –  Standardization of communication, operations, and security will in turn increase ridership over time.
  • Asset Management – Standardization of charging infrastructure design and integration. 
  • Maintenance – Standardization of maintenance protocols to maintain shuttle efficiency. 

CUTRIC’s report provides in-depth information regarding interviews held with stakeholders, download the report to find out more.


Challenges with Smart Vehicle Technology & the Way Forward

Stakeholder challenges that CUTRIC identified include the ability of transit agencies to design, test, procure, and deploy mass autonomous shuttle systems and services. There is also the financial commitment associated with smart infrastructure and charging infrastructure that agencies must consider before launching smart shuttles. 


Although these challenges seem daunting, the global autonomous shuttle landscape is quickly evolving, there are a number of pilot deployments being implemented in various parts of the world that will help Canadian transit agencies move forward with our own efforts. 


An excellent case that demonstrates the success of pilot deployments is found in Norway. Since 2018, the Scandinavian nation has deployed 13 municipal autonomous shuttle trials; some of which have been conducted in normal traffic conditions on public roads, residential areas, and a sea promenade.





CUTRIC is a non-profit innovation consortium with a mission to help Canadian transit agencies with solutions for cleaner and greener transportation. Our vision is to make Canada a global leader in low-carbon smart mobility. As a member of CUTRIC, you gain exclusive access to a full range of business and networking opportunities, technical planning events, conferences, and more! Connect with members, join today!