Research confirms first-kilometre/last-kilometre driverless electric shuttles would get Canadians out of their cars and into economical low-emission transit
January 19, 2021, Toronto – A compelling new report from the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) underscores the need for wider on-road deployments of electric low-speed automated shuttles (e-LSAs) in 2021.
“The final steps to doorsteps and workplaces cause problems that buses and streetcars can’t solve,” said Josipa Petrunic, CUTRIC President and CEO. “Even before the pandemic, getting more people out of their cars and into transit required convenient, fast and on-demand shuttle services. Now, transit recovery and achieving net-zero carbon emissions demands serious deployment of autonomous and driverless electric shared shuttles along short routes that can’t support buses or streetcars.”
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Funded by Transport Canada’s Advance Connectivity and Automation in the Transportation System (ACATS) program, CUTRIC’s research confirms that using e-LSAs – which are sometimes also known as “connected and autonomous vehicles” (CAVs) – as first-kilometre/last-kilometre transit solutions offers benefits ranging from increased transit ridership and decreased car parking space requirements to an overall reduction in transit and transportation emissions.
The report used CUTRIC’s Rout∑.i™ predictive modelling tool to simulate the performance of e-LSAs on routes proposed by municipal or transit staff in nine Canadian cities: Calgary, Trois-Rivières, Surrey, Brampton, Edmonton, Vancouver, York Region, Montréal, and Québec City.
Given the technical complexities associated with deploying autonomous shuttles, the new report identifies and explores several key requirements for municipalities:
- Optimizing e-LSA schedules around peak commuter periods and route-specific charging requirements to supplement rather than compete with current transit operations.
- Maximizing the modal switch from passenger cars to transit by choosing high-traffic first-kilometre/last-kilometre routes where riders need services today.
- Ensuring sensory systems have a safe level of latency and redundancy so they react fast enough to be safe for passengers and pedestrians.
- Maintaining the latest industry standards and best practices in cybersecurity to avoid shuttles being hacked maliciously.
Aided by CUTRIC’s leadership of the three-year-old National Smart Vehicle Project Joint Procurement Initiative, which includes stakeholders from industry, academia, cities, and provincial and federal governments, the report analyzes energy consumption, ridership impact and cyber-security issues, details standards and certifications for CAVs, and explores technical outcomes presented by industry leaders after 36 months of technical consultations nationwide.
“The complex autonomous and driverless vehicle ecosystem requires champion cities to understand the technology, prove the systematic feasibility and standardization of this tech, and show Canadians that 21st-century transit systems can be advanced, modern, and sleek,” Petrunic said. “The e-LSA ecosystem can be built out with transit systems today as part of a green economic stimulus program that supports strong information systems and artificial intelligence (AI) innovation in Canada’s transportation sector.”
CUTRIC is a non-profit innovation consortium with a vision to make Canada a global leader in low-carbon smart mobility. Through industry-led collaborative research and large-scale technology integration trials, CUTRIC is working to achieve this goal by focusing on technology development, integration and standardization of low-carbon propulsion systems and smart vehicle systems, data-driven analytics in mobility, and cybersecurity in transportation.