Automated and connected vehicles 101
Automated and connected vehicles could radically change our transportation system. Learn about automated and connected vehicles, and why we are supporting their safe testing and deployment in Canada.
On this page
- What is an automated vehicle?
- What is a connected vehicle?
- Automation technologies available today
- Benefits to Canadians
- The future of automated and connected vehicles in Canada
- Automated and Connected Vehicles Policy Framework for Canada
What is an automated vehicle?
An automated vehicle uses a combination of sensors, controllers and onboard computers, along with sophisticated software, allowing the vehicle to control at least some driving functions, instead of a human driver (for example, steering, braking and acceleration, and checking and monitoring the driving environment).
Today, many vehicles on our roads have low-level automation features to help with certain driving tasks. Using these features still requires careful attention and involvement from the driver.
Testing of highly automated vehicles, where the vehicle does most or all of the driving task, is happening today in various locations in Canada and around the world.
What is a connected vehicle?
Connected vehicles use different types of wireless communications technologies to communicate with their surroundings. Although the types of incorporated technologies vary from vehicle to vehicle, most new vehicles sold today have some form of connectivity features in them.
Depending on the features it has installed, a connected vehicle may be able to communicate with:
- its occupants
- other vehicles and road users
- the surrounding transportation infrastructure, such as roadways and traffic lights
- Internet-based applications
There are many practical applications for connected vehicle technologies. These can provide information and convenience functions for the vehicle's occupants, such as roadside assistance, and help to diagnose vehicle problems. Different connectivity features may also support navigation, and provide recommendations for restaurants or nearby attractions, as well as entertainment.
Other connectivity technologies that are under development and are gradually entering the market today may also help to improve the efficiency and safety of the transportation system. This includes vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) technologies that can alert drivers of upcoming hazards or provide other useful information. Some examples of practical uses for these technologies could include providing warnings about icy road conditions or a traffic accident ahead, alerting a driver when the vehicle in front brakes suddenly, or notifying drivers when a traffic light is about to turn red.
In the future, it is possible that connected vehicle technologies may eventually support and complement automated vehicle technologies, by allowing automated vehicles to coordinate their movements more efficiently on the road and improve overall traffic flows.
Levels of vehicle automation
SAE International, a technical standards organization, has defined 6 levels of vehicle automation, ranging from 0 to 5. These levels are used by governments and industry around the world to describe different automation capabilities.
The diagram below shows what each level means for you as a driver.
Vehicles you can currently purchase in Canada have automation ranging from levels 0 to 2. Testing of automated vehicle technologies at levels 3 and 4 is underway in many countries, including Canada.
Automation technologies available today
Many of today's vehicles already have driver assistance features that incorporate low levels of automation. This includes technologies such as:
- adaptive cruise control
- lane keeping assist
- automatic emergency braking
It is important to know that these technologies only assist the driver with some parts of the driving task. When using these features, the human driver is still responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle and must stay alert and engaged in the driving task at all times.
In addition, these features:
- can only be used in specific situations
- may not work well (or at all) in weather conditions such as rain and snow, and in certain roadway infrastructure such as tunnels
Benefits to Canadians
We support the safe testing and development of automated and connected vehicles because we believe they could significantly benefit the Canadian public. Here are some of the potential benefits:
According to data from Transport Canada's National Collision Database, driver behaviour was a contributing factor in approximately 86% of collisions causing death and injury in Canada.
Automated and connected vehicle technologies available on the market today could help to reduce the number and severity of crashes in Canada by:
- providing drivers with early hazard warnings
- initiating emergency braking when they detect hazards
- helping human drivers make better decisions on the road
As vehicles with higher levels of automation and greater connectivity features become available, it is hoped that these technologies will help to drastically reduce vehicle collisions and enhance the safety of all Canadian road users.
Automated vehicles have the potential to enhance the mobility of all Canadians, and in particular for those that may be underserved by existing road transportation options, including:
- people with disabilities
- rural populations
- low-income families
These technologies could also give Canadians greater access to transportation services, including:
- first and last mile public transit, meaning getting to/from the bus, metro, and rail stations
- better logistics and delivery services
It is possible that automated and connected vehicles, along with transportation planning and associated environmental policies, could help by reducing traffic congestion and in turn decreasing fuel consumption and emissions.
We will work closely with provinces and territories, municipalities, industry and other stakeholders to examine the potential environmental benefits of these technologies.
New and innovative economic opportunities
Automated and connected vehicles could have significant economic benefits. They could help us avoid costly accidents, save fuel costs, increase productivity and create new jobs for Canadians.
Their production could also have a positive impact on various sectors of the Canadian economy, including:
- transportation services
- automotive manufacturing
- digital technology
- other sectors that rely on efficient road transportation for the delivery of goods, materials and services
The future of automated and connected vehicles in Canada
Researchers and developers are currently testing vehicles that aim to achieve higher levels of automation (levels 3 to 5). Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments are also actively supporting the development and testing of these technologies. However, many experts believe that it will take years, maybe decades, before fully automated vehicles are widely used by Canadians in their everyday lives.
Developers still need to resolve many technical challenges. Driving is a complex task. Before there are fully automated transportation options, automated vehicles will need to:
- Improve their ability to interpret their environments and make safe driving decisions
- Be able to anticipate the actions of other road users
- Overcome challenges like construction zones and unmarked or snow-covered roads
Updates to infrastructure on public roads (for example, signs and connectivity infrastructure) so automated and connected vehicles can safely navigate will also need to be explored.
Automated and Connected Vehicles Policy Framework for Canada
The Automated and Connected Vehicles Policy Framework for Canada affirms that the safety of Canadians is a top priority for testing and deploying these vehicles. The framework will help us advance shared objectives and strengthen partnerships between governments, industry and academia, as we:
- promote, test and invest in these technologies
- achieve a safer, more efficient and innovative transportation system
The Council of Ministers of Transportation and Highway Safety, which is made up of transport ministers from each of the federal, provincial and territorial governments, endorsed this policy framework in January 2019.