Is the city of Ottawa ready for driverless cars and AI impacts?

By Bruce Firestone | Business Coaching

Mar 20

[guest post by Sylvain Rochon, futurist]

Car manufacturers and ride-share providers plan to start offering
self-driving cars in 2020.  Google and Tesla,
to name two, intend to start producing and
selling fully autonomous cars that year while most other manufacturers will begin
with vehicles equipped with level 3 or 4 autonomy, that is, driverless cars with
some level of driver supervision.

Many nations are jumping on the bandwagon, excited at the
prospect of enjoying safer roads thanks to artificially intelligent (AI)
vehicles. No more drunk teens at the wheel of speeding, two-ton cars killing
themselves and others… AI, after all, doesn’t text, fall asleep, get sick, smoke
weed, do shots or take calls whilst driving.

Is Ottawa doing everything it can to embrace the future?
It’s one of the keys to remaining a top technology centre in North-America.

Stratford, Ontario has already built a city-wide Wi-Fi
network that will be used by future self-driving cars, allowing them to not
only communicate with traffic lights but with each other.  Using the network, these modern cars can
learn about street conditions and incidents in real time. If there is a moose
loose on a road, it would be nice to know in advance.

In an interview with CBC in 2016 about the use of technology
to enhance a city’s transportation system, Stephen Buckley, general manager of
transportation services for the city of Toronto, asked a fundamental question
Ottawa should be asking itself too: “How do we use technology to create the
society and city we want?”

Every town should be more pro-active and less reactive.

The city of Ottawa might want to copy Stratford’s citywide Wi-Fi
network and then figure out to connect public transportation to the
self-driving cars in an integrated network that is both efficient and green.

Cities of Ottawa’s size have about 20% of their total
surface area allocated to parking.  As
driverless cars become more popular, it is likely fewer privately owned cars
will be needed.

Every modern city wants more density and intensity and less
sprawl—imagine what could be done by repurposing a fifth of the surface area of
a city of one million for living, learning, entertaining, shopping, making,
communicating, socializing, working, playing, communing with nature,
exercising, biking, jogging, training—anything but parking vehicles for 22 to
23 hours a day.

One the downside, the rollout of fully-automated vehicles
will dramatically impact the livelihood of about 30,000 taxi, delivery, bus,
Uber, Lyft and courier drivers in Ottawa.
Soon, all these people will kiss their jobs goodbye. What happens to

Douglas Schifter, a livery driver in New York City,
committed suicide on February 6th, 2018. He explained in a Facebook post
a few hours before his demise, “Now that politicians have flooded the streets
with unlimited [Uber] cars, with some 3,000 new ones arriving every month, there’s
not enough work for everybody that pays a living.”

According to a 2013 Oxford University study, The Future of Employment by Carl
Benedikt Frey & Michael Osborne, 47% of all US jobs are likely to be
eliminated by technology over the next 20 years. And not just jobs in
transportation, logistics, office and administrative support will
go—occupations in the service industry are also in jeopardy.

Dr Frey says, “Our findings imply that as technology races
ahead, low-skilled workers will have to move to tasks that are not susceptible
to computerisation—i.e., tasks that require creative and social intelligence…
For workers to win the race, they will have to acquire creative and social

Technology is constantly surprising us by the impact it has
on how we live. And really this is only the beginning of the changes and
disruptions that AI will create.

There is an upside to it but also a dark underbelly that
will require more thought and attention as well.

About the author:

Sylvain Rochon is a speaker, futurist and multimedia
technology entrepreneur. He is author of “Engineering Paradise:  Are You Ready?” He has also publishes posts
and videos on science, technology, artificial intelligence, gene editing and
social reform.

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Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.