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Success story: ELA autonomous vehicle pilot

Calgary’s Living Lab in action Embracing the future of transportation with autonomous vehicle testing

​In September 2018, the first autonomous shuttle in Western Canada arrived in Calgary, providing the public with an opportunity to experience this technology first-hand.

​In September 2018, the first autonomous shuttle in Western Canada arrived in Calgary, providing the public with an opportunity to experience this technology first-hand. ELA, or ‘Electric Autonomous,’ is a fully-accessible 12-person vehicle, which is moving passengers between the Calgary Zoo and TELUS Spark throughout the month.

Guided by sensors, including a key piece of high accuracy GPS equipment developed by local firm NovAtel, part of Hexagon’s Positioning Intelligence Division, ELA will operate at low speeds of approximately 12 km/hour, on a one-kilometre service road between the two tourist attractions.

​“We are proud to partner with The City of Calgary,” says Dan Finley, VP of Business Development at PWT. “It’s important for governments and industry to work together to learn about this evolving technology. It has the capacity to be a real game changer in the field of transportation.”


Throughout the trial, research will be conducted by the faculties of Science and the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary and passengers will have the opportunity to provide on-site feedback facilitated by the University and Dillon Consulting.

This pilot will provide an opportunity to test the long-term feasibility of autonomous technology in Calgary, as part of The City’s 30-year Transportation Plan.

“For the majority of Calgary’s existence as a city, vehicles driven by people has been the norm, but we’re now potentially on the cusp of a significant change to the way people commute to where they live, work and play,” says Michael Thompson, general manager of Transportation. “Technologies evolve quickly, and The City of Calgary wants to be in a place where we can understand and take proactive steps to ensure new technology creates a better quality of life for Calgarians. This pilot puts Calgary in that place.”

Under the Living Lab strategy, The City of Calgary is working with Calgary Economic Development to make public spaces, transportation corridors and land more accessible for the testing of technological innovation. This can help entrepreneurs bring big ideas to fruition, support investment in our local economy and make Calgary more business friendly.

This initiative is a great example of Calgary as a Living Lab. Guided by project lead Andrew Sedor, The City of Calgary is helping to coordinate and run the pilot. This includes:

  • Garnering sponsor support, as well as applying for and receiving a federal grant to perform this pilot.
  • Coordinating three research projects with the University of Calgary for the pilot in the departments of Computer Science, Geo Science, and Civil Engineering.
  • Determining, securing, and improving the site for use, performing minor infrastructure improvements as needed.
  • Working with the province to find the best way to move forward on this pilot while contemplating the future of autonomous vehicle use.
  • Support from our Roads team to maintain the roadway during the pilot and to install a mobile camera so that it can be used by the University of Calgary for one of their research projects.
  • Collaborating with internal experts to ensure the pilot is safe and conforms to legal requirements.
  • Engaging City volunteers to talk with the public about the technology and to help them check in on site.

We are not only getting some amazing research and attracting international coverage from this pilot, we are also gaining valuable insight and experience for Living Labs by talking with the public and increasing collaboration among City teams.​​​​​​​​​​​​