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The Future is Here: Delivery Bots, Digital Car Keys, and E-bikes That Call for Help

We discuss cutting-edge transportation technology and more in this month's Dispatch.

Alex Kelly
by Alex Kelly
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, we’ll take a look at calls for increased speed cameras in communities, robots roaming city streets, and illegal car rallies in the face of a pandemic. 

Government: Decoded 

Speed cameras have been providing automated enforcement in municipalities across Ontario, with Toronto’s new photo radars issuing over 22,000 tickets in one month, while Ottawa cameras ticketed over 10,000 speedsters across 18 days in July. Legislated by the provincial government and implemented by the municipal government, speed cameras are currently allowed in school and community safety zones. An Ottawa councillor is lobbying the provincial government to expand the legislation and allow municipalities to install speed cameras anywhere in the community, tackling speedy streets beyond the current legislative boundaries.

Active transportation continues to get a big boost in Toronto, where the city has continued to find more ways to get residents outside during COVID-19 lockdowns. Toronto’s 40 km of new bike lanes are saving lives, Ryerson researchers report, with the fully separated lanes preventing as many as 89% of cycling-related injuries in some corridors. 

ActiveTO, the city’s initiative to close popular thoroughfares to cars, saw an average of more than 25,000 cyclists and 10,000 pedestrians over weekends in June, July, and August. Given this success – as well as concerns over a second wave of COVID-19 – Toronto is extending ActiveTO into the month of October, opening up major trails and roads on weekends for active transportation users. 


Toronto streets are busier, and it isn’t just because of ActiveTO – robots are now roaming the streets. Autonomous vehicle (AV) technology is most likely to be used by delivery robots first, Toronto’s newest AV is doing just that. A small pink box on wheels named Geoffrey, this tiny but mighty robot is hitting the streets to deliver food. While the pilot project has hit a number of speed bumps along the way (literally, the wheels fell off) Geoffrey’s role may ramp up as people embrace contactless delivery options.

Remember when a phone was just a phone? Now a phone is a camera, mini computer, music library, wallet, and soon, a car key. In partnership with Apple, BMW recently announced that their Digital Key will work with compatible iPhones to lock, unlock, and even start owners’ cars. Up to five drivers can share the key on their own iPhones, making it ideal for families and multiple owners. The German automaker even has a solution for dying phone batteries, allowing users access for up to five hours. 

In other technology innovation, European e-bike manufacturer, Cowboy, has just equipped their latest models with crash detection. If a rider crashes and fails to confirm they are okay within 60 seconds of the impact, the e-bike will transmit GPS data via an on-board SIM card to pre-programmed emergency contacts. While not yet available in Canada, the use of sophisticated sensors can allow for faster emergency response and quicker treatment of potentially severe injuries – not to mention, peace of mind.

Transportation fails

Hitting a patio this fall? Dine with caution. Some cities have constructed curb lane patios, providing additional space for restaurants to serve during COVID-19. Despite heavy signage, cones, and concrete blocks, inattentive drivers have plowed right into these new dining areas. Thankfully, most incidents have been after-hours and without major injury. 

While not a fail per se, car clubs are getting antsy with pandemic-related stay home mandates, defying orders just to … rally? An estimated 500 cars were busted at a Hamilton-area parking lot “Mega Meet” car show, requiring police from neighbouring districts to help shut it down. Police prioritized dispersing the crowd as quickly as possible, without laying charges, disappointed at the complete dismissal of public health directives. Last we heard, the internet can be a great place to check out cars, without the potential of virus transmission. Just a thought.
Down the road

While we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, your trips may look a lot different. Keep in mind that means cyclists, pedestrians, scooters, and others on the roads, all in search of physical activity. Drive safe as we head into the cooler months, looking out for municipal adaptations to COVID-19 challenges. Roads are changing, meaning awareness is critical.

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