Benefits to the community

Written by: Natasha Kowalskyj, Social Media Summer Work Study
Edited by: Isabella Blandisi-Van Hee, Project Coordinator for Applied Research

It can be argued that autonomous implementations within society are not an option without some kind of “community readiness assessment” that dictates, on numerous levels, whether a city is ready for this technology or if major changes would be necessary first. There are many projected benefits to autonomous vehicles being implemented within every city. With that in mind, let’s go over the expected benefits and create a dialogue surrounding this topic. In particular, this post will cover benefits related to safety, increased accessibility, environmental benefits as well as economic benefits.

Safety is naturally the first question when talking about any autonomous vehicle (AV). How can we guarantee they will not be more dangerous on the roads? Well, the smartest and most comprehensive intelligence is already driving on the roads as the human brain is still superiorly intelligent. However, humans are inconsistent and not always reliable due to factors such as sleep deprivation, impaired driving, and/or distracted driving. As such, it seems we could benefit from artificial intelligence to help drivers stay safe. Statistics show that 86% of fatal crashes were due to distracted drivers and with the implementation of AVs, this number could be sufficiently lowered because of the driver-assist systems. These systems will aid a human driver with early hazard warnings and emergency braking when the car detects hazards, (at Level 4 of automation or higher) (Transport Canada, 2019a). Essentially, this will help human drivers behind the wheel (Level 3 or lower) to make better decisions and stay safer. In particular, Europe has adopted more AV systems through the newly implemented ‘truck platooning’ because of the benefits like increased road safety and the subsequent fuel efficiency—which will be discussed in more detail (Turnbull, 2017).

Another societal benefit of being part of a smart city with AVs, will be increased accessibility. Indeed, AVs will provide access and enhance the mobility for Canadians, especially those underserved in society. Low income families, seniors, populations living in rural areas and those with disabilities are just some of the populations who are regularly overlooked when it comes to public transportation. As such, the implementation of AVs aims to improve reliability, comfort, and convenience (Transport Canada, 2019a). Studies have found that a fully self-driving Level 4 AV will likely promote an increase in mobility within the elderly, disabled, and non-driving populations (Harper, Hendrickson, Mangones, & Samaras, 2016). Thus, AVs can allow these underserved populations to rely less on walking, limited public transit, or being chauffeured by friends or family members (Harper et al., 2016).

 In relation to the environmental benefits, they rely on environmental policies being put in place to help reduce road congestion and decrease fuel consumption and emissions (Transport Canada, 2019a). For example, through automation, major roads like highways and freeways would become streamlined if 18-wheelers were connected through the abovementioned “Platooning System.” To explain, commercial autonomous trucks can connect to whichever truck is leading the fleet and it ensures they all travel at the same speed until the internal map informs each autonomous truck to break away from the pack (e.g., due to perceived traffic jams) and get off at the next exit (Transport Canada, 2019b). This reduces congestion because highways will be less populated. When highways are less congested, truck drivers, and drivers in general, will ultimately spend less time idling while stuck in traffic—meaning there is less carbon emission polluting the air. This also means individuals will save money by refueling their vehicles less often (Transport Canada, 2019b).

Last but not least, the economic benefits are vast since AVs are projected to change the job market, help avoid costly accidents (as stated earlier), and even save on fuel costs as just mentioned. AVs are set to increase productivity and create new jobs as different sectors of society will see individuals re-tooling and retraining their skill sets to adapt to the new automated version of their old job (once AVs are implemented). According to Stacy (2017), “development, maintenance, and improvements to telematics and other programming for software running the [autonomous] vehicles, plus infrastructure required to run autonomous public transport, will need huge manpower [employees]” (para. 11).

Additionally, take the ever present sector of long haul trucking—they travel across multiple countries to deliver products, goods and services to the masses, and when fleet platooning comes into effect, those who used to drive these 18-wheelers will have to retrain their skill set to be able to adapt to an autonomous version of what they used to do. If and when the trucking industry becomes fully automated, it is projected to save approximately $300 billion in various costs (Staff, 2017). AVs could benefit several sectors of society such as mining, farming, forestry, digital technology, automotive manufacturing, and transportation services, where brand new jobs are created or pre-existing jobs are retrained to be able to continue in the same field (Transport Canada, 2019a). Most of these are the “idealistic” outcomes of how society will change once everything becomes either autonomous or automated—until we are fully autonomous and there are smart cities everywhere, we will not be able to fully comprehend how many benefits are actually possible. However, the expectancy of what AVs can provide for average the Canadian is certainly promising.


Harper, C. D., Hendrickson, C. T., Mangones, S., & Samaras, C. (2016). Estimating potential increases in travel with autonomous vehicles for the non-driving, elderly and people with travel-restrictive medical conditions. Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies, 72, 1-9. doi:10.1016/j.trc.2016.09.003

Stacy, P. (2017). Driverless cars will create new jobs, not destroy them. Lexis Nexis. Retrieved from

Staff, H. (2017, November 21). Report: Autonomous vehicles could save trucking $300 billion in labor costs. Retrieved from

Transport Canada. (2019a, February 15). Automated and connected vehicles 101. Retrieved from

Transport Canada (2019b, March 7). Cooperative truck platooning: Transport Canada’s innovation centre testing new trucking technologies to reduce emissions and improve safety. Retrieved from
Turnbull, E. C. (2017). Hours of service of drivers: Harnessing autonomous technology for safer operations. Jurimetrics, 58(1), 105-125.