A Delayed 427 Extension, New Laws for Street Racing, and Pay-As-You-Go Insurance
Learn more in this month's Dispatch.
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 the complicated future of autonomous vehicles, invasions of bees, and an Evil-Kenevil route to the beach.
Government: DecodedApparently, the provincial government hasn't paid their bills on the 427 highway extension, and commuters are sounding the alarm. While the government claims the delayed opening is due to safety checks, there are reports the closure has more to do with the provincial government's failure to pay their final $144M bill. We are all for safety checks and balances but recommend paying off the project balance ASAP – commuters are desperate for another artery in and out of the city.
An unintended side effect of the pandemic has been a startling rise in stunt driving and street racing; Toronto Police just released that there has been a 222% increase in related charges over the COVID-19 pandemic. The province has taken steps to manage this new pandemic with the release of the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act, designed to curb street racing and stunt driving. Scheduled for Royal Assent in May, and if passed, will introduce severe fines and repercussions for wannabe Fast and Furious drivers.
Very rarely does a road trip beat out a plane ride, but for travelling Canadians looking to circumvent the federal government's mandatory hotel quarantine, people are opting to drive or walk across the Canada-US border. While there haven't been any associated road safety issues with this practice (as it is legal to walk across the border), it increases fears of virus transmission. The feds are getting criticized for a lax loophole, while travellers complain that they have to do this to avoid pricey hotel stays.
NewsworthyThis many months into the pandemic, and we are all searching for some good news. It turns out the exponential increase in cyclists during lockdown may stick, with some municipal support. The New York Times is reporting that pop-up bike lanes increased over the course of COVID-19, a phenomenon seen all over the world, including in Canadian cities. As Toronto's ActiveTO network refreshes for the spring, it is clear that this trend may not be going anywhere – surveys report that 92% of users would like the road closures to continue into the post-pandemic world.
For those still behind the wheel – particularly those in older cars without Bluetooth – Spotify has found a way to connect to music by introducing the Spotify Car Thing. Yes, that's actually the name. Solving the problem of older cars and dated entertainment systems, the touchscreen device will stream your music and respond to voice control, all through the dash-mount system. While this is a competitive business move for Spotify, it also speaks to a certain brand awareness. The pandemic has forced an economic backtrack, and people are holding onto their cars longer. The universal Car Thing will allow Spotify to connect with consumers, no matter what their ride is. Not sure what to listen to? Check out Onlia’s Summer Playlist – pairs perfectly with a side of sunshine.
The future of self-driving cars seems to be anyone's guess right now. While Lyft, following Uber's tire tracks, just announced they are selling their autonomous car division, April brought announcements of robotaxis hitting the road worldwide. Cruise is launching its self-driving division in Dubai by 2023, while Beijing has an autonomous taxi service operating on the outskirts of town. This is all against the backdrop of another fatal collision of a Tesla, one mired in confusion and mystery as enforcement officers and Tesla executives try to pin down the exact cause of the crash. This industry is unfolding as regulators try to predict the future.
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Insurance DemystifiedLast month we covered recent updates to Ontario's proposed tow truck legislation, and it turns out the legislation carries a bonus for insurance, too. The proposed legislation states that tow truck operators can't park within 200 metres of a collision unless they have been called by either the police or a client. This prevents tow truck operators from chasing collision victims or pressuring people on the side of the highway – behaviours that can lead to violence or insurance fraud. When passed, this component of legislation will provide a breather for anyone involved in the high octane emotions of a crash, and allow them to make calm, measured decisions.
COVID crystal balls are trying to predict the future of insurance, and with it comes talk of providers switching to usage-based-insurance models (UBI) – essentially a pay-per-kilometre method of coverage. While this may sound dreamy when your car has been sitting in the driveway all pandemic long, the negatives may outweigh the positives. UBI requires more payment upfront, may dole out surcharges for poor driving, impact your privacy, and have issues with accuracy. We'd rather get rewarded for good behaviours while protecting our privacy; makes [Onlia] Sense™ to us.
A recently released study has found that complacency may be costing drivers up to $700 a year. Drivers may be scared off by the system, content to leave matters of renewing their insurance to a broker, or assume their deal is simply the best there is. You may be giving away money unnecessarily by doing the "same-old-same-old" renewal dance with your insurance provider. Get curious and play the field; know your options and where you can get a better deal. Elements like vehicle age, use of your car, and past driver records may make switching actually worth it, as if the savings aren’t reason enough!
Transportation FailsWe are all ready for a vacation, a little getaway to celebrate the end of the pandemic. One Florida driver was so ready for the beach, they barged through a traffic arm and flew over a drawbridge as it was rising. Daytona Police report this was the second bridge jumping incident of late, begging the question – are people that desperate for a holiday? Also, what if you don’t stick the landing?
While spring may bring out the birds and the bees, one New Mexico motorist got a nasty surprise – 15,000 of them, to be exact. After running into the grocery store for a fifteen-minute shop, the driver discovered 15,000 bees had moved into his car. The local fire department happened to have a bee-enthusiast on staff, making the eviction process as smooth as honey. Word to the wise: close all your car windows this spring.