A Transportation Innovation Zone (TIZ) is a geographic area that hosts testing of transportation and public realm approaches and technologies in a real-world environment. A TIZ has been established at Exhibition Place. The City is also developing a Transportation Innovation Challenge program to invite and manage Trials at that site and, in the future, in other areas of the city.

By establishing a controlled public testing site with transparent monitoring and evaluation, and inviting third parties to conduct trials, we can learn about emerging technologies while supporting local innovation initiatives. The program will last until at least 2025.

Challenge #3: Parking Sensors and Curbside Vehicle Detection (2022)

In 2023, the City of Toronto will be initiating a city-wide Parking Strategy to address the growing demands for curb space and to better align the City’s parking policies with the City’s goals around climate change, housing affordability, neighbourhood vibrancy and congestion management. The City has launched the parking sensor and curbside vehicle detection innovation challenge to help inform the parking strategy and other related policy initiatives. This challenge is currently underway and the application period closed on November 4, 2022.  Results of this innovation challenge are expected to be available in the third quarter of 2023.

Jason Neudorf, Project Manager. E-mail: Jason.Neudorf@toronto.ca

Challenge #2: Micro Utility Devices (2022)

The City held its second Transportation Innovation Challenge in spring of 2022. The City launched this Challenge to better understand the operation, function, and role of Micro-Utility Devices in dense urban environments such as Toronto.

Challenge Objective

The core objective of the Transportation Innovation Challenge was to demonstrate whether and how micro-utility devices can overcome, improve, or address sidewalk challenges and navigate through competing uses in dense urban environments without posing safety risks to sidewalk users. New micro-utility devices are emerging that could address known challenges we face in Toronto. City staff wanted to:

  1. understand whether and how these solutions could support residents in the future;
  2. observe devices to support potential regulatory considerations and limitations of the City’s existing authorities; and
  3. communicate the City’s priorities and unique needs to/of industry.

There was no pathway to procurement for applicants as this TIC was for the purpose of research and understanding.

Applicants were able to enter their technology through 4 categories:

  1. Category A: Personal Assistance Devices: Follow a person and provide a service or assistance to that person.
  2. Category B: Delivery Devices: Deliver a product from point A to point B.
  3. Category C: Service Devices: Implement an infrastructure maintenance service to the immediate path of travel in which it is operating
  4. Category D: Scanning / Surveillance Devices: Scan and survey the physical area it operates within and collect, transmit, and/or output data.

Testing Site and Trial Conditions

The Transportation Innovation Challenge took place on the grounds of Exhibition Place. Each participant demonstrated their device in half day increments, outdoors, exposed to the typical weather conditions on Exhibition Place grounds throughout the month of April 2022.

Trial Participants

The Call for Applications received six participants. The six applicants were technology companies local to the Toronto, Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and Canada. Some applicants also had operations internationally.

Trial participants were not compared against each other as each device was unique in the purpose, design, functionality, and level of technology readiness[1].

The Trials took place from April 4, 2022 until April 21, 2022, the following six applicants were successful and participated in the Trials:

  1. Quantum Robotic Systems Inc.
  2. LoopX Innovation Inc.
  3. Tiny Mile
  4. Apé Canada Corporation
  5. InDro Robotics
  6. Kevares Autonomous Services

Challenge #1: Automated Snow Clearing (2021)

The City issued the first Transportation Innovation Challenge in 2021 for organizations developing new technologies in automated sidewalk winter maintenance to clear snow or apply salt to sidewalks.

To inform the Automated Sidewalk Winter Maintenance Trial, CAVCOE (formerly The Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence) conducted a market scan to determine the current state of automated sidewalk winter maintenance technology, the current research and development needs, and the applicability to winter maintenance challenges in the City of Toronto. The executive summary of this research report is available here.

The City has created and is continuing to evolve the TIZ and the Transportation Innovation Challenges to learn about emerging transportation technologies and approaches and how they could meet some of Toronto’s transportation needs. The program facilitates trials by industry and academic actors in the real-world environment of Toronto’s streets. Through careful design, this program will support research and development, grow local economic activity and talent, and advance the City’s mobility-related goals such as Vision Zero, accessibility, and TransformTO.

Also referred to as “testbeds” and “living labs,” the concept of providing space in a city to trial new innovations is taking shape in many places around the world. Models range from purpose-built test tracks (Singapore), city-wide test zones (Torino, Italy), challenge-based partnerships with participation funding (TransLink in Vancouver), and testing on City-owned assets (Calgary).

Technologies and approaches that could be tested include those that use streets and sidewalks for the movement of people and goods, improve transportation operations, or improve the streets and sidewalks themselves. They will be demonstrated, monitored and evaluated in a controlled, real-world environment to understand potential benefits and impacts to key variables like safety, accessibility and privacy.

City Council asked staff to develop the TIZs in October 2019 as part of the Automated Vehicles Tactical Plan. In July 2020, City Council asked staff to work with Exhibition Place to establish a TIZ at Exhibition Place. A Transportation Innovation Challenge program was approved by City Council in May 2021.

The City of Toronto and Exhibition Place (an agency of the City) are working together to establish the first, flagship TIZ at Exhibition Place.

Exhibition Place is Canada’s largest entertainment and business events venue, attracting over 5.5 million visitors a year. The 192-acre urban waterfront site is an integral component of Toronto and Ontario’s economy.  This landmark destination combines urban parkland with business events, sports and entertainment in Toronto’s western downtown has been a hallmark of innovation for over a century.

As a testing site, the buildings and infrastructure offer a dynamic urban environment with a range of infrastructure including roads, local and regional transit, sidewalks, cycling lanes, intersections, parking areas, indoor facilities, electric vehicle chargers and more.

Exhibition Place’s new Master Plan outlines a vision for Exhibition Place as a place of innovation, inspiration and economic development, alongside other pillars in the plan.

Collaborating and co-producing knowledge with stakeholders and the public is at the core of the TIZs program.

Stakeholder Workshops

In mid-September 2020, the City hosted four online workshops to gather feedback and recommendations from stakeholders on the proposed Transportation Innovation Framework.

The workshops had a total of 93 participants representing a wide range of organization types and interests and generated over 400 questions, suggestions and ideas. The majority of suggestions were prioritized by participants through collaborative idea rating.

Below are the reports summarizing the Stakeholder workshops:

  1. Process & Participants – Report Document PDF
  2. Results Summary – Report Document PDF
  3. Results Raw Data – Hosted as Open Data
  4. Presentation Materials – Slides as PDF and Accessible Word Document

All results were considered in details, with key suggestions directly influencing and reflect in the draft framework document.

Prior Consultation & Engagement

The TIZ concept was first developed in 2018-2019 as part of the Automated Vehicles Tactical Plan, which included consultation with academic institutions, community stakeholders and non-profits, automotive and technology industry members and associations, international experts, and the public.

The specific proposal for a TIZ in Exhibition Place has been supported as part of Phase 1 of the Exhibition Place Master Plan (Next Place), which included public and stakeholder consultation.

The City has also received public input about the use of digital technology through the City’s Digital Infrastructure Plan.

In total, these consultation processes recorded the opinions of thousands of residents and hundreds of organizations, contributing to the core values, principles and general concept for the Transportation Innovation Framework.

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