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Autonomous vehicle systems are making headlines everywhere and for good reason. With Elon Musk planning a coast-to-coast autonomous drive in the next three to six months, and a pilot project already in the works to bring a self-driving vehicle to Calgary, innovation in this area is advancing quickly. Calgary has forged ahead in the manufacturing and development of autonomous vehicles systems, taking a lead role in a relatively new industry. These unmanned vehicles are an excellent opportunity for a city accustomed to using technology to advance economic growth.

Calgary is well-situated to swiftly become an important player in this landscape, offering an ideal location and a reasonable regulatory environment. Moving quickly to take advantage of these developments could change how the city uses the expertise of local companies, resulting in greater investment and growth.

The city will be a testing ground for a pilot project using an unmanned autonomous vehicle, also known as a self-driving vehicle, to transport people between The Calgary Zoo and the TELUS Spark Science Centre. The City is collaborating with the University of Calgary, University of Alberta, Pacific Western Transportation and other stakeholders on the project. This self-driving vehicle will move at a planned speed of about 12 kilometres per hour.

Self-driving vehicles have been in use in other areas of the world for some time, for instance, Singapore, where they have been used for two years without incident. Testing is going on throughout the U.S. and Europe, but this pilot project in Calgary would be the first of its kind in Canada. Future opportunities and innovation in this area could change how people move around this city and others like it.

Calgary has a wealth of knowledge from its oil and gas sector that is transferable to the development of autonomous vehicles systems. A recent report by the City of Calgary on ‘the merits of testing autonomous vehicles systems in Calgary’ noted that the Calgary region is home is to over 2,300 companies and over 17,000 employees in industries related to the autonomous systems cluster.  These Calgary companies and individuals are specializing in mapping, surveying, geography and geospatial systems that are a huge resource for this developing industry and changing the way our established industries operate.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), also have a unique opportunity in Calgary region. Alberta is home to the Foremost Centre for Unmanned Systems (outside Medicine Hat, AB) - the largest commercial drone testing site in Canada. Many Calgary-based UAV companies are taking advantage of the leading- edge research and development that Foremost provides. . For example, Ventus Geospatial a Calgary-based company was first to fly a drone beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in Canada.  This expanded development and testing in the use of drones will bring massive change to how they are used, and the data they collect.

Moving quickly to take advantage of Calgary’s position in this landscape could mean faster development, growth in companies who can get involved, as well as job creation. Calgary is now in position to lead Canada in the development Autonomous Vehicle Systems technologies, which will diversifying Calgary economy as well as the operations of core industries in Alberta.

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