The City of Toronto, in partnership with a number of local, provincial, national, and international organizations, has been researching and facilitating conversations about preparing for automated vehicles since 2015. A timeline of those preparations is below.

In response to City Council’s request for a detailed and comprehensive Automated Vehicles (AV) Tactical Plan in 2018, staff filed a report back to City Council in the fall of 2019 including the complete AV Tactical Plan, a Readiness Schedule & Budget for 2020-2022, a consultation summary, and a full list of Interdivisional AV Working Group members.

The Automated Vehicles (AV) Tactical Plan proposes an actionable path forward to prepare the City of Toronto for the introduction of highly automated vehicles – or driverless cars – on city streets, in public transit, and in the delivery of municipal services. This first phase of preparation is intended to ensure that the City of Toronto is “AV Ready” in 2022 by undertaking an automated shuttle trial in the West Rouge neighbourhood, establishing focus areas for transportation innovation, developing AV testing response and incident preparedness protocols, undertaking public education initiatives, and furthering research and development.

City Council adopted the report in October of 2019.

In October of 2019, a report was completed by CAVCOE for the City of Toronto on best practices for AV trials in North American cities. The objectives of the research study were:

  1. To identify the AV trials and demonstrations in the US and Canada in which a municipality is involved as a stakeholder, for example as a funder, proponent or co-proponent, host, or external stakeholder.
  2. To gather information on each, as described below, using publicly available information, questionnaires and interviews.
  3. To prepare this report summarizing best practices that emerge from the case studies.

The key areas explored in this report include: planning, insurance, data gathering strategy and privacy, partners, communications, operation, technical, safety, paratransit vehicles, and other best practices.

To better understand how health might be impacted by the introduction of automated vehicles, Toronto Public Health staff collaborated with researchers from the University of Waterloo to review the literature about the potential cause-and-effect relationships between AVs and the direct and indirect impacts on population and individual health outcomes. The findings are published in a 2019 article in BMC Public Health called Holding the keys to health? A scoping study of the population health impacts of automated vehicles.

The City of Toronto hosted an intern from the University of Toronto’s Urban Studies Program at Innis College to continue studying the historical impacts of transportation. Maggie Sarzynski’s study looks at the relationship between travel demand and technology through the early stages of transportation, passenger-oriented transportation, and within water and rail. Maggie’s findings can be shared on request.

In 2018, through funding from Transport Canada’s Program to Advance Connectivity and Automation in the Transportation System, the City partnered with Ryerson University’s Transform Lab to conduct their 2016 survey once again. This survey sampled 3,200 residents in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, aged 18 to 75, on changing attitudes towards AVs, and how this may impact broader policy objectives in the City’s preparations for this potential disruption.

Key findings were:

  1. Most consumers are still learning about AV technology and ongoing AV planning initiatives.
  2. Largely due to an uncertain value proposition and evolving understanding about the technology, most consumers are reluctant to commit to using AVs.
  3. When considering the possible future role of automated vehicles, respondents’ three most emphasized potential policy objectives are: better road safety, unobstructed movement of emergency vehicles, and better traffic management.

In September 2017, Transport Canada announced a Call for Proposals under the Program to Advance Connectivity and Automation in the Transportation System (“ACATS”), providing funding for supported activities including research and evaluation, development of codes and standards, as well as capacity-building and knowledge sharing on connected and automated vehicles.

The City of Toronto’s submission to ACATS was selected, and the City was awarded up to a maximum of $365, 000 to fund the research and piloting of an automated shuttle service.

A report was submitted to Council to obtain authorization by the General Managers of Transportation Services and Economic Development & Culture to enter into the necessary agreements with Metrolinx, TTC, and Transport Canada to advance this project; as well as to receive the federal funding.

Transport Canada announced a Call for Proposals under the Program to Advance Connectivity and Automation in the Transportation System (“ACATS”), providing funding for supported activities on connected and automated vehicles. The City of Toronto’s submission to ACATS was selected, and the City is to receive up to a maximum of $365,000 to fund the research and piloting of an automated shuttle service.

The shuttle is intended to test the technology’s ability to meet an existing unmet need in public transit, such as filling the lower-demand “last mile” gap. While the location of the pilot has not yet been selected, the shuttle will not be tested on an existing transit route. It is anticipated that the pilot will operate for 6-12 months, depending on the number of vehicles required.

In February of 2018, a Graduated Planning Studio from Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning conducted a literature review for the City of Toronto, on automated vehicle public opinion. The studio team conducted an assessment of the current state of public opinion on AVs, with comparisons between Toronto and other jurisdictions. The findings are meant to provide a point of reference in understanding where Toronto stands today, and in determining what preparations may be desired.

In response to City Council’s request in 2016, City staff filed a report back to City Council in early 2018 providing a brief technical overview of automated vehicles, information on early public opinion regarding automation, how staff has been preparing for change, and the potential implications for City divisions and agencies.

City Council adopted the report and requested that staff return in 2019 with specific recommendations and a detailed and comprehensive Automated Vehicles Tactical Plan. Council further requested that staff explore opportunities to enhance partnerships with other levels of government and various stakeholders including Sidewalk Labs, the Municipal Alliance for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles in Ontario, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

To better understand how AVs might shape our future, the City of Toronto hosted an intern from the University of Toronto’s Urban Studies Program at Innis College to research the transition from horse-drawn carriages to the automobile. Hong Yun (Eva) Shi’s findings are entitled History Repeats: Lessons from the Introduction of and Transition to the Automobile, and can be shared on request.

In November of 2016, a graduate studio from Ryerson’s School of Urban and Regional Planning conducted a scenario-building exercise to address the potential implications that could arise from the adoption of automated vehicles. The goal of this studio project was to explore and identify the key levers and conditions necessary for the adoption of AVs, and to present possible future scenarios of urban mobility influenced by the use of this technology.

In 2016, the City partnered with Ryerson University’s Transform Lab and Metrolinx to conduct a survey of 3,200 residents in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, aged 18 to 75. The survey was designed to answer three fundamental questions:

  • Under what conditions can GTHA consumers be expected to adopt either private automated vehicles or shared autonomous vehicles?
  • If private automated vehicles or shared autonomous vehicles are adopted, how are transportation system users likely to change their travel behaviour?
  • What role could planning and policy play in managing automated vehicle adoption and use, to maximize benefits and minimize negative consequences?

Learn more about the Automated Vehicles in the GTHA: Public Opinions and Outlook.

In June 2016, an Interdivisional Working Group on Automated Vehicles was created as a forum for discussion and coordination amongst City and agency staff to strategize around recommendations to prepare for AVs. The Group is tasked with reviewing, discussing, and making decisions on issues related to the introduction and adoption of AVs in order to ensure a consistent approach across divisions, as well as to avoid shifting burdens or unintended consequences onto other City services. Almost 30 divisions and agencies are participating as of 2018.

In May of 2016, City Council requested the General Manager of Transportation Services to report back to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on how the City of Toronto might prepare for the introduction of automated and autonomous vehicles.

The City’s first automated vehicle (AV) work plan was written to help staff in Transportation Services begin to learn and organize with other groups around preparing for AVs. The Work Plan focused on three goals – leadership and engagement, preparation, and integration.

This discussion paper served as the launching point for the City’s automated vehicle (AV) preparations. It was published in 2015 to help get a better understanding of the potential impacts automated vehicles posed to the City and to stimulate discussion. The paper was authored by David Ticoll, Distinguished Fellow , Distinguished Fellow at the Innovation Policy Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

The purpose of Driving Changes was to equip City of Toronto decision makers with the information the City needs to identify and evaluate short and medium term policy, planning, and investment options that pertain to the onset of vehicle automation. The report provides independent analysis of statistical and qualitative information, drawing on literature reviews by the author and by the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute.