Senate committee warns federal government to take charge of autonomous vehicle problems

Published: January 31, 2018

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



The federal government in Ottawa needs to take charge of developing testing conditions for autonomous vehicles in Canada. If not, the ruling Liberals could be left out by an ever-innovative tech revolution, a Senate committee has cautioned.

Senate transport committee released a report on Monday detailing the contradictions in government departments regarding self-driving cars. For example, some levels of government are being cautious over safety concerns, while others are pressing for more innovation and testing in Canada.

Co-ordination for a unified approach would be better, the report says. It the government cannot act, it will be left behind by the tech sector. This has been observed on a municipal level where cities were too slow to see ride-sharing innovation and were forced to play catch-up when Uber hit the market.

The Senate committee recommends giving more power and reach to the privacy commissioner, to determine how car companies use driver data. Additionally, the report says the federal government should conduct its own research into safety, for example how autonomous vehicles work on snow-covered roads.

Sen. Dennis Dawson, the chairman of the committee, said government must take a stronger and more concise action.

“We’re not trying to stifle progress, and we can’t,” Dawson said.

“The Americans … believe that we should trust enterprise, and I believe that we should trust enterprise, but the government in Canada has a more interventionist role and we want them to be able to plan on how they’re going to be using that power.”