Driverless transit shuttles are hitting Toronto streets next year

Sep 9 2019, 12:35 pm

Driverless shuttles will soon be the norm on city streets — at least for a little while.

On Monday, Mayor John Tory announced that with funding from the federal government, the city will begin consulting with the public on an automated shuttle trial, that’s the first of its kind in Canada, and set to begin in 2020.

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Tory made the announcement on Monday morning during the Opening Plenary for the 2019 National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Designing Cities conference in Toronto.

The NATCO conference — which is being held outside the US for the first time this year — brings together more than 900 officials, planners, and practitioners from more than 100 cities to advance the state of transportation.

“Toronto is growing at an unprecedented rate and with this growth, we must focus on transit,” said Tory.

“Today’s announcement is another step towards building and expanding our transit system.”

Tory said the pilot for the automated shuttle will help residents access other transit options in the city and encourage more people to use Toronto’s transit system.

During his speech, Tory revealed the public consultations will begin this fall for the automated shuttle pilot, that will connect the West Rouge neighbourhood to a nearby regional rail station, the Rouge Hill GO Station.

“The pilot in partnership with Metrolinx and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) will allow the city to better understand the feasibility of automated shuttles in Toronto’s already robust transit system,” said the city.

As for how the shuttles would operate, the city says the pilot would use driverless shuttles that would seat between eight to 12 people, and travel in low-speed, low-volume environments. While an on-board driver is not required to operate the vehicle, this pilot project will include ‘ambassadors’ who will staff the vehicle at all times.

During his speech, Mayor Tory also announced that city staff are investigating whether it would be possible to replicate the King Street project’s success on a major bus route in Toronto.

“We simply must move people better on public transit in Toronto and find innovative balanced ways to do it. This will involve change, but I am confident based on our experience with King Street, that done properly, these kinds of changes can make a real difference and maintain public confidence,” said Tory.

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