Driverless vehicles may be a reality in Surrey within five years, if a joint proposal between this city and Vancouver is awarded $50 million next year.
The City of Surrey and the City of Vancouver have applied for $50 million from the federal government to create Canada’s “first two collision-free multi-modal transportation corridors, leveraging autonomous vehicles and smart technologies” as part of a “Smart Cities Challenge.”
That proposal is five of 16 shortlisted to receive the Infrastructure Canada funding, with the winner set to be announced sometime next summer.
If Surrey and Vancouver win their bid, the “implementation period” would be from 2019 to 2023.
Surrey council approved a report on Monday (Dec. 17) that endorsed staff to continue with the application.
So what exactly is the plan?
The proposed networks in Surrey and Vancouver would be near SkyTrain Stations, essentially expanding the driverless transit network in the region.
In both cities, the projects would incorporate “Intelligent Transportation Systems, adaptive traffic signals and controls, advanced traffic cameras, smart crossing, smart parking, interactive kiosks, (and) travel time information.”
Two pilot projects are proposed in Surrey that would be activated in two phases.
Phase one would be a “University Drive Pilot” that would include run for one year along University Drive from roughly 102nd and 108th avenues, primarily separated from traffic. It would be a “1.2-kilometre dedicated autonomous vehicle demonstration route in the heart of Surrey City Centre, linking Surrey Central SkyTrain Station with Gateway SkyTrain Station.”
If created, it would “deploy automated shuttles in exclusive rights-of-way to allow for changes in legislation that will permit on-road deployment of automated vehicles” and “capitalize on opportunities to pilot enhanced safety technologies, (and) familiarize city operations with autonomous vehicle technology.”
A report to Surrey council notes the area is “embedded in one of the region’s largest infill areas, involving the transformation of a collection of strip-oriented retail stores and single detached homes into an area of high-density residential towers and a concentration of education centres and supporting services.”
Phase two in Surrey would see another pilot along the “Innovation Boulevard Corridor” that would “feature full deployment of smart city technology, infrastructure, and strategies incorporating the learning from the (University Drive) pilot.”
It would operate in mixed traffic, city staff tell the Now-Leader.
This second phase would be along a 4.5-kilometre route that would offer connectivity to Surrey Memorial Hospital, Jim Pattison Outpatient Surgery Centre, and BC RCMP’s provincial headquarters. It would run along several streets, including Fraser Highway, 140th Street and 96th Avenue (see maps for more route details).
The aim is to use “smart mobility” technology to improve safety, reduce emissions, increase accessibility and efficiencies, as well as offer an “enhanced travel experience.”
The two-stage approach, according to a City of Surrey report, “provides the opportunity for the application to demonstrate the ‘replicability and scalability’ of the proposed projects to other cities, which is a key requirement under the Infrastructure Canada Smart Cities Challenge criteria.”
The City of Vancouver, meantime, has proposed a “collision-free South False Creek Innovation corridor” that would “employ information and communication technologies that ensure the safe movement of people using various modes of transportation on three routes in one of the City’s busiest and most scenic areas.”
Autonomous shuttles would be a “central feature in the collection of smart mobility technologies that make up the corridor,” according to the report. “These will serve as a pilot for wider-scale deployment of the technology throughout the region as a ‘first-mile/last-mile’ transit-supporting solution and accelerate Vancouver’s transportation system’s advance toward electrification and enhanced safety.”
But of course, all of this hinges on the $50 million funding application.
The corridor designs were completed last September, as was a “vendor call for innovation,” according to a City of Surrey report.
Last month, a program director was hired to assist with the final application, now that the cities’ proposal has been shortlisted. Also in November, engineers were hired as “subject matter experts.”
The two cities aim to complete vendor evaluation, and secure partners, next January. In February, a “Smart Cities Challenge” event in Surrey Civic Plaza is planned to “encourage community engagement.”
Surrey’s Manager of Corporate Services Rob Costanzo said so far, the City of Surrey has spent $73,016 on the project and related applications and are “currently committed to an additional $100,000 for the Program Director and Owner’s Engineers, for a total of $173,016 once invoices are received.”
Costanzo added that the city has received a $250,00 federal grant towards the joint application and the “total forecasted cost of the program will be known in early 2019 once scope and refined estimates are provided.”
The final joint application is set to be in by March 5, 2019, and the winners are expected to be revealed sometimes next summer.