Senate Committee on Transport and Communications deputy chair Senator Dennis Dawson responds to a question during a news conference regarding connected and automated vehicles in Ottawa on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Senators urge Liberals to act on privacy, security issues with self-driving cars

Committee says feds need to better co-ordinate action to avoid playing catch-up

A Senate committee is urging the federal Liberals to take control of the development and testing of self-driving cars on Canadian roads before governments fall too far behind the technological revolution.

In a report released Monday, members of the Senate’s transport committee describe how different departments and levels of government are taking different approaches to automated vehicles: some are hitting the brakes out of safety concerns, while others hope to drive innovation by stepping on the gas.

READ MORE: Intel CEO talks security fixes, self-driving cars at Vegas gadget show

READ MORE: Self-driving Ubers could still be many years away, says research head

The committee says the federal government needs to better co-ordinate action to avoid playing catch-up the same way provinces and cities had to do with ride-hailing services like Uber.

The report recommends giving the privacy commissioner greater reach over how car companies use drivers’ information, including whether companies can monetize personal information, and giving federal cybersecurity officials a bigger role over protecting the new technology from hackers.

The committee also says the government must invest more in its own research of self-driving cars to deal with questions of safety, such as how to ensure a driverless car safely navigates a snow-covered road.

The chairman of the committee says government action must be stronger than in the United States, but must also strike a balance to prevent spilling over into the private sector.

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

“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.”

The committee is unveiling its 16 recommendations on the same day that Transport Minister Marc Garneau meets with his provincial and territorial counterparts in Ottawa. In a statement, Garneau says the government will present a plan in the coming months for the safe introduction and use of automated vehicles on Canadian roads.

Fully-autonomous vehicles may still be a decade or more away, but companies are already testing prototypes on Canadian and American roads. Carmakers have also introduced assisted-driving features on newer model cars like adaptive cruise control and automated parking.

The committee’s report, which Garneau requested shortly after taking office, says that self-driving cars could reduce the number of vehicle collisions that are largely caused by human error, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and boost productivity.

But it could also lead to job losses in transportation sectors that employ some 1.1 million people, including truck, bus, and taxi drivers. The Liberals, the committee says, must put in place job re-training programs for those whose jobs will be affected, and ensure sectors like after-market companies can maintain a foothold as new, automated cars hit the roads.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Nanaimo Sport Achievement Awards announce winners

VIU women’s volleyball is Team of the Year, Presidents Cup lacrosse is Sports Story of the Year

Vehicle smashes through front of furniture store in Nanaimo

No injuries reported in Friday afternoon incident on Mostar Road

Island Health dealing with ‘surge’ of measles vaccination requests in Nanaimo

No measles cases on Vancouver Island says Island Health

High school students converge on Nanaimo for Skills Canada competition

Winners will head to provincial event in Abbotsford later this year

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Beefs & Bouquets, Feb. 21

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail bulletinboard@nanaimobulletin.com

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Maple Sugar Festival features family fun, francophone-style

Maple bar drinks will be poured through ice luge at festival showcasing French Canadian culture

Governance top of mind as Nanaimo council works on its strategic plan

Council working with facilitator to develop draft plan, public consultation still to come

City of Nanaimo needs a new garbage truck due to population growth

New automated truck comes with price tag of $430,000

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

Most Read