A Yonge Street Makeover, Saying Goodbye to Uber Pool, and Faulty Tesla Tech

A Yonge Street Makeover, Saying Goodbye to Uber Pool, and Faulty Tesla Tech

We cover all this and more in this month's Dispatch.

Alex Kelly
by Alex Kelly
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Welcome back to the Dispatch, Onlia's monthly dive into the intersection of transportation, tech, and everything else you need to know about safety. Hosted by Alex Kelly, Onlia's road safety expert, this month we're looking at futuristic insurance, hefty government investment in transportation, and more transportation fails than we know what to do with.

Government: Decoded

Toronto is reexamining how residents use its streets, and with that, is a recommended revamp of Yonge Street. City staff are proposing updates to the north-south corridor, adding bike lanes, on-street patios, and other improvements. Part of the city's commitment to "complete streets," these updates would allow more accessibility for different road users and neighbourhood residents while calming traffic and contributing to safer streets. Perhaps fewer parking spots, but better use of space for everyone.

The Ontario government released its budget this month, and with it, signalled that the province is open for auto business. Ontario's is planning to invest $10M in auto parts companies. The funding is a substantial financial boost to the province's Ontario Automotive Modernization Program, designed to create jobs, inspire innovation, and attract significant auto manufacturers to Ontario. If you're making car parts in Ontario, this could be a winning ticket for you.

Throughout the pandemic, transit agencies have been suffering due to low ridership and evolving public health guidelines. Infrastructure Canada has announced an initiative to help revitalize rural transit networks, committing $250M to support small towns, cities, and rural communities with transit options. Recognizing equity in transit, the federal government is inviting unique solutions that offer flexibility for each region. Think rideshare subsidization, electric vehicle options, and on-demand transportation networks. 

Newsworthy

Police in Toronto broke up a massive auto theft ring recently, recovering over $4.5M in stolen high-end vehicles. Tech-savvy thieves had boosted the cars by hacking the vehicle computers, completing the heist in under five minutes. Frequently targeted vehicles included Lexus, Toyota, and Honda SUVs that were loaded onto cargo ships destined for buyers in Africa or the United Arab Emirates. Police estimate this is only the tip of the iceberg, with more cars to be recovered. Worried about your ride's safety? Read our tips to protect against the new age of grand theft auto.

For those that love to save a rideshare buck by opting for pooled trips, you may be out some cash post-pandemic. With safety and sanitization at the top of everyone's priority list these days, rideshare companies like Uber may be reassessing their pooled-ride options. Analysts predict that COVID-prevention may outweigh the environmental (and financial) interests of riders, making a poor use case for companies interested in providing the option, forcing a rethink on the future of transportation.

Cell phones have a bad rap when it comes to road safety, as we know that distracted driving is a major hazard. Researchers have recently looked into the impact that walking and texting may have, and it turns out it isn't just about the individual on their phone – texting while walking messes with the flow of pedestrian traffic for everyone, creating chaotic crosswalks and concerns for all road users. If you're behind the wheel, know that pedestrian distraction is just as real as distracted driving. Pedestrians? Just stow the phone. 

While investment into autonomous and electric vehicles is hot, Tesla's technology is under the microscope. Reports of fatal collisions and dangerous commutes may be scaring investors and causing consumers to pump the brakes on purchases. Coupled with the pandemic's economic uncertainty, these tech woes may create substantial headaches for Team Tesla.

Insurance Demystified

Connected and autonomous vehicles are regularly celebrated as the way of the future, innovating how we get around. One stumbling block for our Jetsons-like future? Insurance. The complicated systematic makeup of future vehicles mean that liability may now rest with elements like software, hardware, networks, and road conditions, rather than just the judgement and ability of a driver. 

The Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators is scratching their heads, calling for the industry to come together and sort out how liability will unfold through the next 5-10 years of autonomous vehicle development. While autonomous vehicles hold the promise of a collision-free future, it may be a bumpy ride to get there. 

COVID has changed the playbook for many things, and insurance is no exception. With the world going online – and fewer commuters on the road to work – the number of reported Canadian auto collision claims were lower than in previous years. However, while the reported claims were as low as half of the normal rates at some stages of the pandemic, police data found incidents resulting in fatalities increased, indicative of more severe collisions.

Tow truck turf wars have recently hit an all-time high in Ontario, with the industry sounding more like a true-crime show than a traffic report. In-fighting over towing territory has led to reports of scary roadside encounters, violence, and even murder. This criminal activity has also impacted collision victims, who have reported intimidation and violence when tow trucks arrive at an incident. Criminal conspiracies in the towing world even impact the insurance industry, as evidenced by tales of accident chasing, loss of vehicle custody, and fraudulent invoicing, to name a few.

Ontario recently announced a Joint Forces Operation task force to combat violence on the road. This task force is the latest action item from a 2020 report that recommended an increase in industry oversight, upgraded tow truck licensing, investigation of fraud conspiracies, and pilot-testing tow zone assignments. Regulators and enforcement agencies hope that this approach will make safer roads and a more equitable insurance system.

Transportation Fails

Gather round, because this month was filled with fails in the transportation world. Apparently, the pandemic DIY spirit is infectious, spreading to the most random of places: homemade license plates. With Service Ontario reducing their hours throughout COVID-19, there is still no excuse to make your own plates. 

Even when you're doing everything right, you may get caught up in someone else's bad day. That was the case for the driver of a Mini Cooper that got pushed up and onto Toronto's Gardiner Expressway by a dump truck driver. The truck driver was clueless until other motorists flagged them down. The unfortunate driver of the Mini? Thankfully, only minor injuries.

Finally, lest you think transportation fails are reserved only for drivers, a cyclist was pulled over in a Caledon neighbourhood for blowing a stop sign. A word to the wise: stop entirely and respect the rules of the road, whether you're behind the wheel or pushing pedals.

Down the road

When normalcy feels far off and futuristic, there is some hope for some sense of normalcy to return post-pandemic. Perhaps we've all watched a bit too much of Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy, or we're all just hungry for some good news, but commuters in Rome rejoiced to see the return of traffic cops directing vehicles in the Italian capital's piazzas. Perhaps the only time the police have ever had such a journalistic glow-up for directing traffic, but we're happy to see evidence of ordinary commuting again. 
 
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