Canada: Automated Vehicles – Disrupting The Traditional City

Last Updated: September 27 2017
Article by Michael Polowin and Jacob Polowin

Most Read Contributor in Canada, October 2018

In 1894, the Times of London sounded the alarm about the great urban crisis of the day, predicting that "... in 50 years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure." Four years later, the world's first international urban planning conference was convened in New York City, as delegates desperately tried to come up with some solutions. It ended in failure.

By 1917, New York City's last horsedrawn trolley was out of operation, as motorized vehicles quickly became the main source of carriage and transportation. By 1944, 50 years after the Times of London's dire warning, automobiles had already begun to fundamentally alter the nature and shape of North American cities. In the coming decades, the ubiquity of the family car would fuel the spread of suburbs, leading to today's sprawling megacities and "greater urban areas." Today's cities are fundamentally shaped by and inextricably linked with the automobile, as is the regulation of cities. Development standards mandate certain road widths and parking requirements; large retail centres cluster in the suburbs, relying on automobile traffic to sustain them; and planning documents design arterial roads to accommodate growth. For at least the last 70 years, urban development in Canada has been built around a relatively constant model of motor vehicle use and ownership. Cities have developed as "automobile cities," rather than "pedestrian cities," or even for mass transit or bicycles.

What happens as this model changes? Automated vehicle (AV) technology is rapidly improving, in both the area of personal transportation, as well as carriage and delivery of goods. AVs will represent the greatest disruption to the model of the traditional, personallydriven automobile city since the inception of the motor vehicle. Across North America, cities are not prepared.

Liability

For the most part, current laws regarding liability rely on some degree of human involvement in the incident giving rise to the liability. AVs will challenge this model, and the question of who is at fault for collisions involving AVs remains uncertain. Issues of liability are further complicated if there is a capacity for manual override of the AV, as liability could differ depending on whether the automation was being overridden at the time of the collision. Under current laws, AV collisions could give rise to a long chain of potentially liable parties, including: the manufacturers of individual components; the software engineers who wrote the program code; and the designer, builder, and owner (the municipality) of an "intelligent road."

This last category should give cities particular pause. Already, several American cities have started to develop capabilities to sync traffic infrastructure to AVs. While there are obvious benefits to this capability, it likely gives rise to liability on the part of the municipality, should the municipal infrastructure be determined to be at fault for an AV collision. Even if the collision occurs on a "dumb road," there is potential municipal liability if signage or lanes are not properly maintained, leading AVs to incorrectly process markers. In addition, to the extent that roads differ from how they are represented in plans, there may well be a question – is the AV manufacturer at fault, or is it the city? Where roads are rebuilt to accommodate bicycle lanes, what will the responsibility of the city be to make certain that those changes on the ground are quickly reflected in AV software?

Liability is similarly uncertain for standard traffic infractions, such as red light violations, speeding, and illegal lane changes. Once again, current laws rely on human agency in the course of the infraction. It is unlikely that these laws would be able to properly capture a situation in which an vehicle autonomously violated traffic codes, or indeed where there is some form of human override to the systems.

Last Mile Delivery

Beyond personal transportation, AVs will transform the carriage and delivery of commercial goods. In particular, AVs will allow for substantial efficiencies in terms of "last mile" delivery – the final leg of delivery that takes a product to its ultimate destination. Companies like Amazon are investing massive resources in a wide variety of technologies to make use of small AVs – both aerial and land based – for last mile delivery. Picture this: a truck pulls up to the corner of King Street and Bay Street in the heart of Toronto's financial district. The sides of the truck open up, disgorging dozens of small AVs, each with a unique destination and a small complement of packages. Autonomously, the AVs navigate the busy streets and sidewalks, delivering their packages to individual destinations, before returning to the truck to be refitted.

Sidewalk-based delivery robots are already on the move in San Francisco and Washington DC, prompting pushback along the lines of "sidewalks are for people."

While certainly efficient, this delivery model potentially runs afoul of municipal by-laws, which generally prohibit both encroachment onto sidewalks, as well as their use by motorized vehicles – at least, they are intended to. The issue is that AVs likely do not run afoul of the letter of these prohibitions in many by-laws, even if they violate their spirit. By way of example, Toronto's Municipal Code describes encroachments as: "anything installed, constructed, or planted within the public road allowance that was not installed, constructed, or planted by the city." This likely doesn't include AVs. Similarly, the City of Ottawa has specific provisions dealing with various types of encroachment, none of which include AVs.

In terms of the prohibition on the use of municipal sidewalks by vehicles, the by-laws likewise come up short. Ottawa's by-law 2003-530 states, "no person shall drive a vehicle on or over a sidewalk except for the purpose of directly crossing the sidewalk." Mirroring this language, Chapter 950 of Toronto's Municipal Code provides "no person shall drive a motor vehicle upon a sidewalk or footpath on a highway except for the purpose of directly crossing the sidewalk or footpath." Both provisions use the term "no person" and therefore rely on human agency to establish a violation. If a vehicle is truly automated, it is not being driven by a person. Use of municipal sidewalks by AVs for last mile delivery clearly creates the possibility for interference with pedestrians, or with traffic if the AVs are forced onto the roads. In order to accommodate this technology, cities may have to establish separate sidewalks or lanes for AVs, akin to a bike lane.

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – colloquially known as "drones" – similarly threatens to outstrip the pace of regulation. UAVs will be integral to last-mile delivery, particularly in cities with a dense and built-up urban core. They are also at the core of many of the more futuristic delivery schemes – Amazon was recently awarded a U.S. patent for an "airborne distribution centre" that would hover at 45,000 feet, and use UAVs to make deliveries within minutes. However, UAVs are federally regulated. Although Transport Canada is currently developing new regulations for UAVs, at the moment, they cannot be flown higher than 90 metres above ground, must be in line of sight, and may be flown no closer than 75 metres from people, animals, buildings, structures, or vehicles. Obviously, these regulations serve to prevent the use of UAVs for delivery. Going forward, cities will require discretion to tailor UAV regulation based on local urban landscape and needs; this is a likely source of friction based on division of powers.

Disrupting the Configuration of the City

Beyond challenging existing legal frameworks, the rise of AVs will disrupt the very configuration of the city, to a degree unseen since the development of the motor vehicle a century ago. To begin with, AV delivery will exacerbate the decline of brick-and-mortar retail already in process. As a result, zoning practices based on the traditional assumptions about the amount of retail space required will need to be re-evaluated.

In addition, development is occurring to use AVs as mobile points-of-sale or manufacture, which will challenge the traditional delineation between commercial and non-commercial zones. Amazon has applied for a patent for a truck that would carry raw materials and a large 3D printer. Instead of delivering finished goods, the goods would be finished enroute, allowing a dense cargo of raw materials. If that truck is creating products (an industrial use) in an area zoned for residential use, is that a zoning violation?

Perhaps most significantly, the decline of brick-and-mortal retail will significantly reduce municipal property tax income, depriving cities of a crucial source of revenue. Any revisions to municipal taxation must occur at the provincial level.

In terms of personal transportation, companies such as Uber are attempting to shift to a model of decreased vehicle ownership, in favour of inexpensive and easily available hiring of AVs. Such a shift could drastically reduce the need for parking spaces in the urban core, but would increase the need for road capacity, including separate lanes for AVs. This conflicts with the increasing shift toward, and investment in mass transit. If current AV trends continue, the future city could be characterized by a dense urban core, with significantly less retail and parking space, surrounded by a suburban ring of distribution centres, warehouses, and massive parking lots.

Municipalities Are Not Prepared

AVs will challenge numerous elements of local governance, including: planning, zoning, and regulation of space; revenue; transportation; and by-law enforcement. They constitute perhaps the most significant disruption to the configuration of the city since the motor vehicle. It is impossible to predict what specific challenges will be faced by individual municipalities. Yet, as demonstrated by the challenges faced by municipalities when dealing with technologies such as Uber and AirBnB, the law and municipal regulations are often ill-equipped to deal reactively with the challenges of new technologies.

Public officials must immediately look forward in a way they never have before, in order to prepare to incorporate AVs into the fabric of municipalities. If they don't, they will find themselves forever playing catch-up to rapid change.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions