TTC to monitor automated vehicle expansion in Toronto

Published: March 24, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has suggested to the board that staff continue to show interest in technological and regulatory advancements around automated vehicles (AVs). The staff should report with recommendations of how driverless and autonomous technology can be incorporated into the transit system in the city.

In a report send to staff earlier this week, the TTC board said that technology growth is happening, but it is uncertain. Despite uncertainty, “it is clear that significant resources are being invested into the industry to achieve widespread adoption.”

The report specifically focus on the impact Level 3 and Level 4 will have on the transit infrastructure in Toronto.

The U.S. Federal Autonomous Vehicles Policy sets out the following SAE criteria (paraphrased) for determining automation:

  • SAE Level 0 – human does everything, like current cars
  • SAE Level 1 – some in-car systems can aid the human in the operation of the vehicle
  • SAE Level 2 – the autonomous tech can complete some driving tasks, but human monitoring is needed.
  • SAE Level 3 – the system conducts some driving and monitors some of the environment, but human must be ready as backup
  • SAE Level 4 – the system can conduct driving tasks without any input from humans. However, the system only works under some conditions. This is where the current market is.

There is a real chance that public transport could one day be fully automated, although such an eventuality is likely decades away. During its July 12, 2016 meeting, the Toronto City Council debated item EX16.47, discussing how autonomy would affect buses.

“Staff conducted research on the use of automated vehicles (AVs) in the transit industry and determined that at this time, there are too many unknowns to prepare a business case or a strategic plan with regard to AVs,” the report read. “There is, however, adequate information to identify impacts on departments that would be affected, changes to roles and responsibilities, and positive and negative impacts at a high-level.”

The report looked at impact potential and says many TTC departments would be affected “immediately” by the introduction of autonomous technology. Legal, bus transportation, IT services, finance, bus maintenance and shops, safety and environment, engineering, wheel-trans and strategy and service planning, would all be affected.