Recommendation to Turn Ontario's HWY 407 Toll to AV Test Road

Recommendation to Turn Ontario's HWY 407 Toll to AV Test Road

Automotive Weekly

Recommendation to Turn Ontario's HWY 407 Toll to AV Test Road


Production of the Chevrolet Impala will cease Thursday after six decades, making the Impala yet another Detroit sedan to be laid to rest as buyers switch to crossovers, SUVs, and pickups. Introduced in 1958 and produced continuously except for gaps in the 1980s and 1990s, the final Impala will roll down the line at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly. Seen by many as emblematic of the all-American car, more than 16.8 million have been sold globally (not including the 1994-96 Impala SS, which was counted as a Chevy Caprice).

Source: The Detroit News 


Auto sales in China fell 19% in January, more than expected and marking the industry's 19th consecutive monthly decline, data from the country's biggest auto industry association showed on Wednesday. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers posted on its official WeChat account that new energy vehicle sales during the month fell 52 percent year-on-year, adding that declines in automotive production and sales will be more significant in February due to the coronavirus outbreak. The association said on Feb. 13 that it was expecting total auto sales in the world's biggest auto market to fall 18% in January from the same month a year earlier. The industry is bracing for the impact of a coronavirus epidemic that has killed 2,715 people by Feb. 26.

Local governments began imposing travel curbs and warning residents to avoid public spaces in the last two weeks of January, and industry executives said the epidemic was likely to wreak havoc on auto sales and production in the first quarter.

Source: Reuters


Volkswagen and a major German consumer group said on Friday that they had reached an 830 million euro ($902.04 million) agreement in a class action lawsuit over the carmaker’s rigging of diesel emissions tests. The deal marks a further step in the German carmaker’s efforts to make amends after it admitted in 2015 to using illegal software to cheat U.S. diesel engine tests. The effort has cost Volkswagen more than $30 billion in vehicle refits, fines, and provisions.

Source: Reuters 


The Toronto Region Board of Trade recommends that Highway 407, an Express Toll Route (ETR), be converted into what it calls the “AV Highway of the Americas,” a real-time testbed for autonomous vehicles. The recommendation is the largest part of a report entitled Getting Ready for Autonomy: AVs for Safe, Clean and Inclusive Mobility in the Toronto Region. “Designating the 407 ETR as an AV highway, with AV-ready infrastructure and eventually a dedicated AV-only lane, would put the Toronto region ahead of any other city in North America,” the report says. “Making the highway a testbed for roadside infrastructure that is connected and communicating with AVs, as well as for the use of AVs itself, will give the region a significant advantage over competitor jurisdictions for AV investment and jobs, especially as companies seek to test their technology in adverse weather conditions.”

Four seasons, complete with Canada’s snowfall, make AV testing in Ontario attractive to researchers.  The report notes that Highway 407 “is already a technological trailblazer as the world’s first electronically operated toll highway.” It makes use of more than 1,000 cameras, which use an extensive fibre optic network. Monitored around the clock by 407 ETR staff, and stretching across the region for 108 kilometres, “it is a regional asset ready for the testing and deployment of AVs unlike any other,” the report says.

Ross McKenzie, the managing director at the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research, thinks the proposal is a good idea. He called the plan “achievable and realistic.” “It’s a very forward thinking document, but it’s not way out there,” he said. He said some of the infrastructure needed for vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity already exists along Highway 407. That includes cameras, power and fibre optic cable. “You’re just building on the existing infrastructure,” McKenzie said. “You would need some different types o sensors and additional devices to provide connectivity that’s expected to be required by autonomous vehicles.”

Ontario already allows the use of autonomous vehicles on its public roads, so long as they — and their owners and drivers — follow certain rules. Automated vehicles equipped with SAE Level 3 technology that are available for public purchase in Canada can be driven on Ontario roads. A human driver is required at all times to take back the driving task when alerted to do so by the vehicle. Level 3 autonomy is defined by the provincial government as “conditional automation.”  “The vehicle becomes a co-pilot. The vehicle manages most safety-critical driving functions but the driver must be ready to take control of the vehicle at all times,” according to the Ministry of Transportation website.

In 2018, Uber announced a new engineering hub in Toronto — the company's eighth outside of the United States — and a $200-million expansion of its self-driving vehicle centre in the city.

Toronto has also seen testing from Intel, and General Motors, which plans to open an AV test track northeast of the city in Oshawa. Toronto has also been one of the key testing sites for Waymo since 2017. 

The Toronto Region Board of Trade believes Highway 407 ETR, “could provide ideal testbeds to roll out [AV] technologies given they are environments with controlled entrances and more sensors than most other parts of the road network.”

The report notes that the toll road crosses multiple municipalities across the region and that the highway’s on-and-off ramps “can be the launching point for these municipalities to build out their own AV test sites on complex urban streets.” The highway has 198 ramps and gantry systems, overheard structures on which cameras are already attached.  “AV-ready intersections can be installed around these ramps as the foundation for wider AV-designated zones. The 407 ETR can become an artery for AV-enabled transit across the region, and AV corridors can extend from the highway into municipal transit hubs to help provide additional connectivity to the region’s residents. By embracing the potential of AVs in freight, for example through truck platooning, the 407 ETR can also bring about new solutions for the movement of goods.”

Highway 407 ETR is 108-kilometres in length with 41 interchanges linking the highway to all major GTA highways. Total annual trips have increased from 71.9 million in 1999, to over 125 million in 2017, according to the highway’s website.“Rolling out AV technology in public transit ahead of wider adoption is another potential avenue for the region to become an autonomous leader.”

While Highway 407 is a public road and part of Ontario’s 400 series of highways, it is operated by 407 International Inc., which is owned by Cintra Global Holding Limited, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and SNC-Lavalin.

Source: The Canadian Press


The acting head of the U.S. vehicle safety regulator said on Wednesday that his agency would make changes this year to a testing program that assigns safety grades to new and future vehicles. “We’re raising the bar for safety technologies in our new vehicles,” said acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief James Owens. NHTSA in December 2015 issued proposed rulemaking for testing procedures that would be similar to more comprehensive testing done by European regulators.

Source: Reuters


Zhejiang Geely Holding Group sold 2.18 million units in 2019 and has set up a fund to support efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak, Chairman Li Shufu said on Monday. The group's revenue reached 320 billion yuan ($45.97 billion) in 2019, Li said, according to a post on the group's “we chat” account.

The company, which has invested in German luxury automaker Daimler, owns Sweden's Volvo Cars and Malaysia's Proton, invested 20 billion yuan in r&d last year, Li said.

Geely has set up a 200 million yuan fund to support the fight against the coronavirus epidemic which has killed more than 2,900 people in China. It is helping auto parts suppliers and dealers resume work and production, Li added.

Source: Reuters


Late changes made to the new North American trade pact place Canada into the role of an “honest broker” to assess whether Mexico’s manufacturing operations comply with new labour standards, a trade expert says. In late 2019, Democratic legislators in the United States sought new provisions that would make it easier to enforce higher labour standards in Mexico as part of the new United StatesMexico-Canada Agreement, which is set to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. After balking at the proposal to allow for increased oversight, Mexico signed on after being assured that Canada would assist to sort out remedies for Mexican auto facilities deemed out of compliance with the USMCA. “What the Mexicans really feared was that, because they didn’t trust the Trump administration to, in essence, not put their thumb on the scale and use what they would see as spurious grounds to justify imposing tariffs or other measures against certain facilities,” said Eric Miller, president of the Washington-based Rideau Potomac Strategy Group and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center Canada Institute. 

“They wanted to have mechanisms that were rules-based, and they wanted Canada to come and look at the situation as need be,” said Miller, who sits on the Canadian deputy minister of trade’s external advisory committee on international trade policy.

The USMCA boosts labour standards and oversight at Mexican plants and requires 40 per cent to 45 per cent of a vehicle’s parts to be made with labour making at least US $16 an hour. While the United States and Mexico have ratified the USMCA, that process is just beginning in Canada.

Riled over labour rule 

As part of the deal, Mexico will overhaul its labour code. Its legislature has followed suit, voting, for instance, to allow workers the right to secret-ballot votes on labour contracts and union representation. House Democrats in the U.S. Congress, in turn, sought additional oversight to make sure the reforms were enacted at Mexican plants. A provision also was added to USMCA legislation in the United States that allows the country to designate labour attaches to Mexico to do just that. 

This briefly led to a dispute in December, when Mexico signaled it had issues with the move, seeing it as an unnecessary infringement on its sovereignty. The dispute was resolved days later when Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, clarified in a letter to his Mexican counterpart that the attaches would not act unilaterally, and an independent panel would look over any labour violations found. The attaches would “work with their Mexican counterparts, workers and civil society groups on implementation of the Mexican labour reform, including by providing technical assistance and disbursing capacity-building funds, and provide assistance to the new U.S. government interagency labour committee,” Lighthizer’s Dec. 16 letter reads. 

“These personnel will not be labour ‘inspectors’ and will abide by all relevant Mexican laws.” 

Easing mexico’s worry

Miller, who has been involved in the development of six international trade pacts and has advised 40 countries on trade and economic policy, said Mexico likely felt comfortable resolving that dispute in part because it had agreed to separate “facility-specific, rapid-response labour mechanisms” with Canada and the United States. In essence, that means Mexico agreed to two bilateral deals outlining the process for dealing with automotive facilities, including factories, found to not be in compliance with the USMCA’s labour standards, he said. Separating Canada and the United States on this issue was crucial to Mexico, Miller said. “Canada, in some ways, is being brought in as a bit of an honest broker. Canada and Mexico have had their differences over time, but fundamentally, Mexicans feel that within the Canadian DNA is an orientation toward living by the rules. So Canada isn’t going to go up and say that facility violates rules unless it violates rules.” Having attaches in Mexico will likely lead to more compliance, Miller said though he cautioned that surprises “inevitably pop up” when enacting new rules. 

“It’s kind of like when you post a police officer by the side of the highway. Everybody slows down,” he said “The idea of being able to do it, at leas for a while, is likely to push people to ensure that they are being more careful than they might have been about how these things will play out.” 

Canada’s reputation as a country that can “broker peace rather than imposing it” proved to be crucial to getting the USMCA passed, said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA). “Canada’s brand and reputation has not suffered through this process,” Volpe said. 

Miller said the deal will increase manufacturing in Canada and the United States, with the APMA estimating up to $8 billion in new annual parts orders in Canada.  “There is actually truth behind the claim that this deal succeeds in delivering more purchases for manufacturing,” he said. “You’re looking at a significant increase in purchases [of auto parts] in Canada, and it increases purchases in the United States.”

Source: Automotive News Canada


Automakers achieved a record-high average of 25.1 miles per gallon for vehicles made during the 2018 model year, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The figure was up slightly from the previous record of 24.9 miles per gallon that automakers averaged in the 2017 model year. But the industry fell short of marks set by the Obama administration, and most manufacturers only remained in compliance with the standards by cashing in credits from previous model years. Preliminary fuel economy for the 2019 model year, which will not be finalized until 2021, is projected to be 25.5 mpg.

Source: The Detroit News

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