Over the past few weeks, Vancouver and Surrey received a preview of the new possibilities driverless vehicle shuttles could bring to their communities.
The free demonstration periods in both cities were a showcase piece of the City of Vancouver and City of Surrey’s campaign to land on the federal government’s Infrastructure Canada Smart Cities Challenge top prize of $50 million to build two collision-free multi-modal corridors — one in each city.
Earlier today, both municipal governments announced they have submitted their joint final ‘Smarter Together’ bid proposal of operating driverless shuttle vehicle routes on the corridors. Supporting the operation of these routes would be conflict and collision-reducing technologies like dynamic crosswalks and adaptive traffic signals.
It will leverage the latest in driverless vehicle technology and other smart technologies, such as intelligent traffic system devices using sensors and controls embedded in traffic infrastructure.
The Vancouver project will be a three-km-long corridor on three parallel routes that link Granville Island and Science World and connect with the False Creek South and Olympic Village communities. These three routes include the Seaside Bypass route along Lamey’s Mill Road, Charleson Park, Moberly Road, Commodore Road, and West 1st Avenue.
“The location is a center of Vancouver activity, tourism, and traffic. It includes three major commercial districts, many popular tourist destinations, an emerging technology innovation hub, and a major health precinct and hospital site,” reads the bid book.
“Three routes will comprise the corridor, each with a mix of connected technologies that suit its distinct features, road conflict zones, and traffic volumes.”
As for the Surrey portion, there will be two routes to connect key and emerging destinations. One 1.2-km-long route will connect Surrey Central Station with Gateway Station, linking high-traffic nodes such as SFU Surrey, Surrey City Hall, Surrey City Centre Library, Civic Plaza, Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Surrey campus, Central City Mall, and Fraser Health Authority’s (FHA) headquarters.
A second 4.5-km-long route will be along a mix of local streets, collector streets, and high-volume arterials on the Innovation Boulevard corridor, with major destinations such as Surrey Memorial Hospital, RCMP E-Division headquarters, and various other FHA facilities.
These corridors are intended to improve safety, reduce emissions, create healthier and more socially connected communities, increase mobility options and people-moving capacity, and enhance travel experience.
If the joint bid by Metro Vancouver’s largest bid wins, federal funding will be supplemented by an additional $36.5 million in private sector contributions and at least $15 million in direct funding from the municipal governments.
With the $50 million federal fund included, the total two-city project would be backed by over $100 million in funding.
Research and best practices learned from the implementation of Smarter Together’s “urban and suburban” projects in Metro Vancouver would be shared with other Canadian cities so that the model can be replicated.
“We have an opportunity to realize smart city infrastructure investment that could be transformational not only for our region, but the rest for Canada”, said Jessie Adcock, Chief Technology Officer for the City of Vancouver, in a statement.
“How we leverage technology and innovation to better serve the needs of our residents and better our quality of life, now and in the future, is at the heart of being a smart city.”
If chosen, the driverless shuttle services would be a significantly improved version of the recent make-shift demonstration shuttles, which provided over 4,000 passenger rides during their short operating period.
The bid was a 20-month effort and shortlisted as a finalist by Infrastructure Canada in June 2018.
Other cities that were shortlisted for the top $50 million prize category include Edmonton, Montreal, Quebec City, and Waterloo.
Two additional prizes worth $10 million each are open to all communities with populations under 500,000 people, and one prize of $5 million is available to all communities with populations less than 30,000 people.
Richmond was named one of the finalists of the $10 million category for its proposal to create “resilient physical and virtual platforms that are integrated seamlessly across all levels of government to enhance quality of life in day-to-day activities and minimize community impacts from major disasters.”
Neighbouring Victoria’s idea of creating a “multimodal transportation network that is convenient, green, and affordable” also earned it a shortlist placement for the same $10 million category.
Infrastructure Canada will announce the competition winners later this spring.