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

BC BUDGET: Fare freeze and free travel for seniors on BC Ferries

A complete fare freeze will be put into place on major routes, and fares will be rolled back on smaller routes by 15 per cent

B.C. BUDGET: New spaces a step to universal child care

Fees reduced for licensed daycare operators

BC BUDGET: NDP cracks down on speculators, hidden ownership

Foreign buyers’ tax extended to Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Vancouver Island

B.C. BUDGET: Payroll tax replaces medical premiums

Health spending to increase $1.5 billion for drugs, primary care teams

VIDEO: Vaudeville variety show in Errington kicks off

Raunchy comedy, impressive singing, sultry dances and more feature in show

UBCO students to get medical cannabis coverage

Kelowna - The pilot project will be implemented in April

BC BUDGET: NDP push for purpose-built rentals in ‘historic’ $1.6B investment

Hundreds of thousands of new low- and middle-income units coming over three years

B.C. BUDGET: More for wildfire recovery, campsites

NDP government to hire 20 more Conservation Officers this year

B.C. BUDGET: Surpluses predicted for three years

Tax revenues up, ICBC losses weigh heavily on provincial books

Vancouver Island job market ever-evolving

Various sectors driving employment in region will be represented at Black Press career fair in Comox Feb. 8

Parts of B.C. see record-breaking temperatures in cold snap

Sechelt, Yoho National Park were the chilliest ever Monday

Claim dimissed against RCMP over 2008 B.C. woman’s murder

Mother of Lisa Dudley, shot in her home along with her partner, had alleged negligence

Most Read