Op-Ed

Futuristic twist in auto industry can benefit society by making roads safer

Photo: Kim Wiens.

Self driving cars are the way of the future, and an advance that could drive Ontario’s automotive sector. Last week, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced that Ontario would become the first province to allow for testing of automated or self-driving cars.

The announcement was coupled with the addition of $500,000 from the provincial government to Ontario Centres of Excellence Connected Vehicle/Automated Vehicle Program, a program designed to increase technological innovation in transportation. With this investment, Ontario has the opportunity to gain a greater presence in this growing part of the automotive market.

The market for self-driving cars is growing, with companies like GM, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and Google either already operating self-driving cars, or have plans to do so. Ontario’s announcement is a little behind the ball with Michigan, Nevada, Florida and California already allowing self-driving cars to operate on their roads.

While the thought of self-driving cars on Ontario’s roads may seem a little scary, all cars being tested must have a human operator inside in case of trouble, according to the Ontario government.

As odd as  driving alongside cars operating themselves may seem, the trend in this direction is somewhat inevitable for Canada.

People are putting increasing demands on technology, and these cars are already being made and operated safely in four U.S. states.

The reality is that self-driving cars would have a lot of benefits for society as a whole. They’d be able to reduce the number of accidents by removing the potential for human error, saving lives in the process. By reducing the number of accidents they’d also reduce hospital bills, time off work, and money spent on repairing damaged cars.

These cars could also be capable of sharing route data, allowing them to pick the fastest route to your destination. This feature would save people time and limit the amount of greenhouse gas emitted by cars waiting in traffic jams.

A car that drives itself would also allow people who previously couldn’t operate a car to own one, such as seniors, or people who have certain disabilities.

While there are concerns about the safety of these cars, we have to acknowledge that there have already been many tests have been successfully performed  with cars in the U.S. Ontario can look to the four U.S. states to provide guides on how  to ensure testing is done as safely as possible.

The development of self-driving cars isn’t just a chance to realize the dream of science fiction movies, it’s an opportunity for Ontario as a whole to improve through innovation.