HALIFAX – The Nova Scotia government has to reimburse a retiree for a court skirmish over a report suggesting a licence plate bearing his family name supports sexual violence against women.Lorne Grabher has been trying to reinstate his personalized licence plate since it was revoked in 2016 by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles following an anonymous complaint about the plate.He was awarded $750 in court costs in a decision released this week, although he won’t actually be getting a cheque. The money matches the $750 that Grabher was to have paid the Crown for an earlier skirmish over an affidavit.The same-costs award “will do justice between the parties,” said Supreme Court Justice Pierre Muise in a decision released Thursday.In February, Grabher’s lawyer, Jay Cameron, had fought to strike a Crown report linking the plate, which reads “GRABHER,” to derogatory comments about women made by U.S. President Donald Trump.The report was done by McGill University professor Dr. Carrie Rentschler, who has expertise in communications and gender studies. She referenced Trump’s boast that he could grab any woman he pleased by her genitals, which was caught on a 2005 tape released during his presidential campaign.At the time, Cameron argued that Rentschler’s report did not consider “GRABHER” as a name, but instead inferred that the plate was a direct reference to Trump’s controversial statement.“There is zero evidence in this case that refers to Donald Trump, with the exception of this report,” said Cameron in February.“I think that the court should ask itself whether or not the freedom of expression of Canadians is influenced in any way by comments by a foreign dignitary.”Crown lawyer Alison Campbell had argued that the report is relevant and necessary in deciding the case, saying the expert was simply asked to objectively determine: “Is this phrase offensive?”“Dr. Rentschler’s report is not a salacious magazine. It is a review of academic literature on the ways in which gender violence is represented and reinforced in society,” said Campbell, adding that the report notes that language can take on new meaning as the context changes.The hearing of Grabher’s motion in February took around 2.5 hours — around the same amount of time it took to hear the registrar’s motion to strike portions of Grabher’s affidavit.In his decision this week, Muise said he partially granted Grabher’s request to strike the report, saying the opinion expressed would need to undergo “substantial revisions” before it could be admissible in court.Grabher first purchased the personalized licence plate as a gift for his late father around 1990. It then became an expression of family pride in their Austrian-German heritage.His case will resume in early September, when he will make constitutional arguments against the registrar’s regulations and its decision to revoke the plate.
MONTREAL — The head of Uber’s new self-driving vehicle lab says a viable, on-demand autonomous commercial transportation service remains a long-term goal.“Having self-driving cars at a smaller scale, on a small set of roads, we are fairly close,” Raquel Urtasun said Tuesday after addressing a Deep Learning Summit in Montreal“To see at an Uber scale we are far.”She said much work remains to ensure the technology functions in all possible conditions and locations.Urtasun declined to predict how far away research being conducted in Toronto will generate the required results.She said the biggest challenge is the technology itself.Mapping also remains a very expensive challenge. The cost in the United States alone is estimated at US$2 billion and a cheaper solution is required, she added.“Nobody has a solution to self-driving cars that is reliable and safe enough to work everywhere,” she said in an interview.Automotive manufacturers and tech companies are spending considerable money to develop autonomous vehicles.Yoshua Bengio, an expert in artificial intelligence and head of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, agrees that it’s going to be many years before vehicles are actually autonomous.“I think people underestimate how much basic science still needs to be done before these cars or such systems will be able to anticipate the kinds of unusual, dangerous situations that can happen on the road,” he said in an interview.Urtasun told artificial intelligence colleagues that she chose to work for Uber because she wanted to work in Toronto, not in Silicon Valley, the epicentre of technology in California.“The Silicon Valley should be in Canada,” she said to loud applause.“(Also), it is transportation for everybody, not just for the rich. I like that idea.”Uber has fleets of test cars outfitted with cameras and sensors on the streets of Pittsburgh, Phoenix, San Francisco and Toronto that have travelled more than one million miles.Urtasun said the goal of her work is to improve transportation safety, increase efficiency, reduce congestion and cut the amount the space used to park vehicles.“The goal is to get to the transportation of the future.”Uber Freight is working on developing autonomous vehicles for trucking, which have different requirements than cars used in cities.Urtasun defended the potential job displacement that would be caused by a commercial driverless Uber fleet, even one that works in concert with a service with drivers.She noted that disruptions in the past weren’t necessarily bad. She pointed to the impact of ATM machines on tellers and tractors compared to horse-drawn carriages.“There will be a disruption but hopefully there will also be a lot of other new jobs that will be created as well.”Bengio was more cautious, noting that the risk of job losses due to artificial intelligence is real, and that politicians should plan accordingly.“I believe that governments should start thinking right now about how to adapt to this in the next decade, how to change our social safety net to deal with that.”