Autonomous vehicles are increasingly showing up around the world, such as in Europe. Here in Canada, we’re seeing them used in the oil sands. Winnipeg has just started testing autonomous snow plows at its airport to clear its runways. In the capital region, the City of Edmonton projects that they could see autonomous public transportation in as soon as 10 to 15 years.
But what has not been done yet in Canada is studying how we – as citizens – react, interact and respond to autonomous vehicles. With Beaumont being Canada’s first city to pilot the integration of ELA into mixed-use traffic scenarios that encompass traffic signalling and human interaction, it is exciting progress to see how this technology can impact our everyday lives and how it can potentially build connectivity with the region.
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The City of Beaumont is Canada’s first city to pilot an autonomous electric shuttle within mixed traffic use in its community under a six-month pilot project in partnership with Pacific Western Transportation (PWT) and its Electric Autonomous (ELA) shuttle. It will be the first time ELA will be fully integrated with traffic, traffic technology and pedestrians. The six-month pilot from May through October will be an approximate 1 kilometre route travelling north and south on the east lane of 50th Street. CLICK HERE for the pilot project map.
As one of the 13 municipalities within the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board, we are not only dedicated to growing our own community, but we are committed to our region’s collective vision of being globally recognized for its economic diversity, entrepreneurialism, leadership in energy development, environmental stewardship, and excellent quality of life anchored by a thriving core interconnected with diverse urban and rural communities.
This pilot project is a calling card showing others across Canada and abroad that Beaumont is open to partnering with innovators in advancing and commercializing new technologies. With expanding interest in new office development and the addition of our annexed lands slated for business parks and light industrial, we are a community of choice not only for residents but also increasingly for business investment from technology sectors and knowledge-based industries.
What makes this pilot project a first in Canada compared to ELA’s other deployments to date, is the duration of the project and that she will be operating within mixed traffic. Prior deployments have been on private roadways, not interacting with traffic, not interacting with pedestrians, not interacting with traffic infrastructure such as lights, intersections, road signage, etc. It effectively becomes a live testing ground using real-life scenarios and will provide invaluable insights and learnings into autonomous vehicle operations such as technology impacts from northern climates, to citizen response and readiness, and insight into potential civic and infrastructure planning considerations that all levels of government are starting to consider.
No. Taxes will not increase due to this pilot project.
While one of Beaumont’s key principles is to embrace new technology and versatility, it is too soon to determine if, when and how electric autonomous transportation can become a permanent option in our community.
This pilot project benefits our community in many ways that cannot be quantified in numbers and statistics. We’re showing everyone that we’re not afraid to be at the forefront of urban progress by attracting initiatives such as this project because our City has demonstrated that we are an optimal backdrop for learning, discovery and economic growth and diversification. We’re redefining what a city can be.
We are bringing in new innovative projects, so businesses and industry view Beaumont as open for business. This first of its kind project in Canada also raises Beaumont’s profile regionally and nationally as a community open to commercialization testing of new technologies and a city that embraces new technologies. The ELA Project will also bring visitors and interested groups to our community over the term of this pilot.
Part of our future vision is to become a community of choice for livability and economic innovation. By being the first city in Canada to pilot this technology for this length of duration in mixed traffic use gives us first access to learning, testing and applying cutting edge new ideas and technologies that have real potential to impact on how we plan and develop our municipality into the future and understand how this quickly evolving technology could one day support our transportation system.
This pilot project is providing educational opportunities for other municipalities, academic institutions and industry associations that are increasingly focusing on research in this area of emerging technology that is becoming the future of transportation.
The City of Beaumont’s contribution to this partnership with Pacific Western Transportation (PWT) is $200K from reserve funds allocated under the Mill Rate Stabilization Fund as approved by Council for strategic economic development investment initiatives. The pilot project also involves a number of organizations contributing to this exciting project in both in-kind and dollar contributions. It is a great opportunity for forward-thinking companies to participate because of the national interest and visibility of this pilot project.
As this was an opportunity and initiative funded from reserve funds allocated under the Mill Rate Stabilization Fund approved by Council where there were no impacts to the City’s operating budget nor increases to residential taxes from this initiative, a formal public engagement process was not required
The expected data and learnings gained over the course of this pilot project will be compiled into a findings report. With respect to ELA, it is too premature to anticipate where she may be deployed to next and for what purposes or focus.
There are also early plans for a conference later this year in the region that will bring national and international players in the autonomous transportation sector to the Edmonton region. Beaumont’s project is expected to be a key feature and highlight of such a conference. These large companies, leaders in the industry and interested investors will learn about Beaumont, and we are ready to work with them.