March 2, 2021

Choosing Canada’s Automotive Future

The Expert Panel on Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and Shared Mobility

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Connected, autonomous, shared, and electric (CASE) vehicles could fundamentally change transportation, making it safer, cleaner, and more accessible. They also present new opportunities for Canadian industry, including in software development, motor vehicle and parts manufacturing, shared mobility services, infotainment, and infrastructure, as well as in data management, analytics, and security.

Prototypes of low-speed autonomous shuttles and taxis are already being tested and are likely to appear on urban roads in the coming decades. There are autonomous delivery vehicles on the road today, and virtually every new vehicle currently being produced has some level of advanced driving assistance system and connectivity.

These technologies will continue to evolve, connecting more vehicles to each other, to infrastructure, and to other users on the road. While their appearance in Canada may seem inevitable, the timing of their arrival and widespread adoption and acceptance remains uncertain, as does the likelihood that their benefits will be fully realized. Autonomous vehicles also raise important privacy and security concerns, could potentially worsen air quality and traffic congestion, and increase transportation inequities.

Avoiding undesirable outcomes and achieving the benefits of CASE vehicles in Canada will require meeting significant technical and societal challenges and will depend on how industry, consumers, and governments respond to problems and opportunities today. Present-day planning and policy decisions related to public transit, ride sharing, and active transportation will affect how, when, and where CASE vehicles are used in Canada in the next 10, 20, and 50 years.

The Sponsor:

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED)

The Question:

In light of the current trends affecting the evolution of connected and automated vehicle technologies and shared mobility, what impacts, opportunities, and challenges do these present for Canadian industry, governments, and Canadians more broadly?

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Connected, autonomous, shared, and electric (CASE) vehicles offer the promise of a more effective, efficient, and integrated transportation system with reduced congestion, fewer collisions, and greater mobility options. They could lead to improved equity and accessibility in transportation for older adults, children and youth, people with limited mobility, and those living in areas underserved by public transportation. But realizing the potential of CASE vehicles will require coordinated interaction and decision-making among government authorities at all levels, as well as with relevant industry stakeholders, associations, and international organizations.

Main findings

CASE vehicle technology is rapidly evolving; it is reasonable to expect some limited applications and impacts over the next 10 years. As communication networks become more integrated and ubiquitous, vehicles will become more connected to other vehicles, infrastructure, and other road users through vehicle components, smartphones, and wearable devices. This connectivity will be used to improve the transportation experience through shared mobility services, traffic management, navigation features, ordering and payment systems, infotainment, and safety features, among other uses. Similarly, driving automation systems and vehicle electrification will continue to improve and become more widely available.

The full potential of CASE vehicles is unlikely to be realized for several decades. The long-term promise of future mobility is in CASE vehicles that can supply on-demand, convenient, accessible, and affordable transportation to all people in all regions of Canada. Realizing these goals will require overcoming significant technical and societal challenges, the timing and likelihood of which are currently debated, in part because of the inherent uncertainty associated with technological change.

Early impacts of CASE vehicles on people in Canada will be concentrated in urban areas. The timing and approach to deploying CASE vehicles on Canadian roads will not be evenly distributed across the country, nor will all regions necessarily experience similar outcomes. Mobility policy, public-private partnerships, infrastructure investments, and provincial, territorial, and municipal regulations will shape the eventual integration of CASE vehicles in different regions in Canada.

CASE vehicles present both opportunities and challenges for industry in Canada. The mass production and manufacturing of CASE vehicles is likely to fundamentally change the industrial structure of the automotive sector, as the vertically integrated motor vehicle and parts manufacturing industry merges with the networked and more horizontal structure of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector.

Proactive urban management will help ensure the benefits of CASE vehicles are achievable. The appearance of CASE vehicles on roads in Canada in the next 10 years and beyond will implicate all levels of government across a range of state functions, and involve municipal planners, transit authorities, and civil engineers, among others. Actively planning for the potential impacts of vehicles with higher levels of automation, connectivity, electrification, and shared use is important.

The development of CASE vehicle technology will outpace product liability and insurance laws and regulations in the next 10 years. New or amended legislation will likely be required in order to address liability in vehicle collisions that involve increasingly complex automated driving systems. Over the longer term, if CASE vehicles reduce personal vehicle ownership as ride and car sharing become more common, there could be a reduced demand for personal auto insurance and an increased demand for commercial auto insurance.

The potential environmental and health benefits of CASE vehicles depend more on mobility behaviours than technological advances. Mobility behaviours that lower the total vehicle kilometres travelled (e.g., ride sharing, active transportation, public transit) are essential to improving air quality, congestion, and public health in Canada, regardless of technological advancements.

Fully autonomous vehicles are not yet available — technology is advancing, but challenges remain. There is considerable uncertainty regarding the level of deployment of CASE vehicles over the next decade. Assuming a resolution of near-term technological challenges and appropriate policy and regulatory development, autonomous shuttle and robo-taxi services could become available to Canadian consumers under limited scenarios, such as in urban cores, at international airports, or on campuses.

CASE vehicles generate unprecedented volumes and new types of data that create risks to personal privacy and vehicle cybersecurity. Greater volumes and new types of data generated by CASE vehicles present an opportunity for increased transportation safety, mobility coordination and efficiency, and improved accessibility. These data also open numerous business opportunities for automakers, mobility service providers, auto insurers, and others in the private sector. However, the risks to privacy also increase, not only from malicious actors or individual instances of abuse, but also from the gradual accumulation of seemingly minor practices for data collection and use by a variety of actors.

The potential impacts of CASE vehicles are multifaceted and interconnected, which will require horizontal and coordinated actions. The interconnectedness of mobility systems touches all aspects of people’s lives and all levels of government and the potential impact of CASE vehicles is profound. Part of the challenge of predicting the impacts of CASE vehicles on the Canadian economy, environment, and people is that many of these impacts will be determined by the collective decisions of many actors, whether they act in a coordinated, or uncoordinated and potentially antagonistic, manner.

Expert Panel

The Expert Panel on Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and Shared Mobility