Map shows proposed routes of planned ‘autonomous vehicle demonstration’ routes in North Surrey. (Photo: surrey.ca)

A closer look at driverless shuttles proposed in Surrey, Vancouver

Vancouver and Surrey’s joint application for $50 million to pilot the “autonomous” vehicles is one of five shortlisted

Driverless vehicles may be a reality in the Lower Mainland within five years, if a joint proposal between Surrey 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 sometimes next summer.

If Surrey and Vancouver win their bid, the “implementation period” would be from 2019 to 2023.

See also: Surrey, Vancouver shortlisted in $50 million traffic infrastructure competition

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, of course, along University Drive from roughly 102nd and 108th avenues. 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.”

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(City of Surrey map shows where the University Drive pilot would be.)

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.”

This second phase would be developed 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.”

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(City of Surrey map shows where the Innovation Boulevard Corridor would be.)

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.”

The final joint application is set to be in by March 5, 2019, and the winners are expected to be revealed sometimes next summer.

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(Map shows where the False Creek corridor would be.)

Click here to read the full report and full-resolution maps.

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