Shifting Gears: Preparing for automated vehicles

Self-driving cars to be on the roads within 5-10 years

Ottawa, ON (Jan. 21, 2015) – Buckle up and get ready for the next big thing. Automated vehicles (AVs), already on the road in some form, will continue to rapidly enter the on-ramps, highways and Canadian roadways, packed with time-saving benefits and reducing road collisions.

A new study from The Conference Board of Canada, in collaboration with the Van Horne Institute and Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE), titled Automated Vehicles: The Coming of the Next Disruptive Technology, estimates that self-driving cars could be on the roads by 2020-25 and economic benefits for Canada could total over $65 billion per year.

“The potential scope for impacts of automated vehicles on Canada is profound,” said Vijay Gill, Director of Policy Research at The Conference Board of Canada. “Self-driving cars could free up driving time, significantly reduce the number of car accidents, minimize road congestion and reduce the amount of fuel that we consume. However, these new vehicles will pose some economic and social challenges including possible job-displacement and required employment retraining.”


  • Economic benefit of automated vehicles may be over $65 billion per year, including collision avoidance, fuel cost savings and congestion avoidance.
  • Automated vehicles could play a significant role in preventing 1,600 of the current 2,000 annual road fatalities.

The impact of AVs is significant with total potential benefits for Canada estimated at $65 billion. The cumulative potential benefits from the above-mentioned factors are summarized as follows:

  • Fewer collisions — $37.4 billion;
  • Saving drivers’ time — $20 billion;
  • Fuel cost savings — $2.6 billion;
  • Reduced traffic congestion — $5 billion.

There will also be wider economic and technological effects including substantial changes in land values as AVs increase sprawl and urban intensification. There is a strong likelihood that people will be willing to tolerate longer commutes if they are able to be productive in the vehicle, especially if it means trading a longer commute for cheaper housing.

“The future impact of this technology on Canada’s transportation system should be carefully considered,” said Peter Wallis, President and CEO of the Van Horne Institute. “Transportation in Canada is an enabler of our economy and future policy or legislative changes should encourage the deployment of this technology.”

Jobs and trades will change as direct and indirect employment displacement may occur in transport, truck and courier services, taxi and bus drivers, auto insurance, driving instructors and parking attendance.

On the positive side, there will be new business opportunities for the auto and technological industries related to the design and manufacture of sensors, software, etc. for AVs.

While transit and transportation industries will be directly affected, AV roll out will also impact any business involved in freight or passenger transportation: car-sharing, car-rental companies, insurance companies, retail and commercial building management (who provide large parking spaces).

AVs will require active planning on the part of all levels of government and business. Leadership at the municipal, provincial and federal levels need to incorporate the impact of AVs into urban planning, transit and the design of infrastructure projects and encourage the harmonization rather than fragmentation of such a huge undertaking.

Tomorrow, look for Changing Lanes: The Impact of AVs on Current and Future Infrastructure.

About the study

This study – Automated Vehicles: The Coming of the Next Disruptive Technology – was funded and received in-kind support from The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Transportation and Infrastructure, The Van Horne Institute, and The Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE). The report can be downloaded free of charge from the Conference Board’s e-Library.

About the Conference Board of Canada

The Conference Board of Canada is the foremost independent, evidence-based, not-for-profit applied research organization in Canada. We are dedicated to building a better future for Canadians by making our economy and society more dynamic and competitive. We are objective, independent and evidence-based. We do not lobby for specific interests. We are not a government department or agency, although we are often hired to provide services for all levels of government.

The Conference Board of Canada is independent from, but affiliated with, The Conference Board, Inc. of New York, which serves nearly 2,000 companies in 60 nations and has offices in Brussels and Hong Kong.

Source: Conference Board of Canada

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