January 25, 2019 9:34 pm

Experts say Alberta provides proper testing ground for driverless vehicles

WATCH: Ontario announced this week that driverless vehicle testing will be allowed on public roadways. However, Joel Senick explains why some believe Alberta is the best province for the new technology to hit the streets.


Alberta is one of the best jurisdictions to test driverless vehicles on public roads, according to some experts in Calgary’s innovation and engineering sectors.

“We’re well positioned because one thing that’s nice when you’re testing is to not have as high of a population density,” said Sandy Kennedy, vice president of innovation with Hexagon Positioning Intelligence.

The company is working on location, position and navigation technology in autonomous vehicles.

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“There’s a place to be testing in a real-world condition, but before you get to that you often want to have a place that’s away, that’s separate, that’s safe.”

READ MORE: Driverless shuttle pilot project launches in Calgary

Kyle O’Keefe, a navigation researcher and University of Calgary professor in its Schulich School of Engineering, agreed with Kennedy’s assessment. He said Alberta’s climate also offers the appropriate testing challenges for autonomous vehicles.

“Alberta would be a very good place to test how well these systems work on snow covered roads when you can’t see the lines,” O’Keefe said.

“What the autonomous vehicle industry really needs is more autonomous vehicles being tested in real situations to provide data for the regulators so that the regulators can actually make the rules.”

This week, Ontario announced that participants in its automated vehicle pilot project would be able to test cars on public roads, but under strict conditions. In Alberta, testing is decided on a case-by-case basis, with applicants needing to seek approval.

READ MORE: Transportation minister announces driverless cars allowed on Ontario roads

A spokesperson with Alberta Transportation said the department would allow driverless vehicles to be tested on public roadways, but the test site would need to be inspected, the vehicle would have to meet specific requirements and a driver would have to be inside.

O’Keefe said it’s important this sort of testing takes place in order for the technology to move forward and progress.

“We need to learn how these systems work in real situations with real traffic.”

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