Skip to main content
lou's garage

According to Lou Trottier, we are currently in level 2 with a few manufacturers testing level 3 of the automation stages.Argo AI/Reuters

Like many of you, I’m confused as to how close we are to an actual driverless society. Many people think a 20-year window is feasible, but I’m in my early 50s and doubt I will ever fully participate in a driverless society. My expertise is in fixing cars, but based on questions I’ve fielded recently I can tell there is a lot of interest around automation and where the industry is going. Here is some basic information to help you sound like the expert at your next family barbeque conversation with Uncle Bob and know-it-all cousin Charles.

The generally agreed upon levels of vehicle automation are:

0. No automation whatsoever. (Been there, done that)

1. Basic Driver Assistance such as adaptive cruise control.

2. Partial automation, preforming basic steering, acceleration and braking with the driver still being required to be attentive and ready to take over at any time. (Look mom, no hands)

3. Conditional automation. Eyes off mode. The vehicle can detect basic environmental conditions and perform most driving tasks with a human ready to intervene but less attentive. (Staying awake will be the challenge for most)

4. High automation. The vehicle takes full control requiring geofencing and optional human intervention.

5. Complete or full automation. There is no steering wheel.

We are currently in level 2 with a few manufacturers testing level 3. While we are on the road to an autonomous society, many hurdles remain. The leap from level 3 to 4 will be huge. Geofencing is roughly defined as a virtual boundary that triggers an action when a mobile device crosses over it. This will play a large roll in level 4 automation. The data bandwidth required for all vehicles on the road to be using this sort of network is in its infancy. The first vehicles in level 4 will likely be slow and small shuttle buses. Check out the University of Waterloo’s self-driving Watono Bus for some homegrown autonomous pride. Yes, Canada is a hotspot for research and development.

Some manufacturers have slowed their level 3 automation implementation programs because technology has outpaced legislation. Deciding who is responsible when things go wrong is going to a challenge.

It should also be mentioned that big technology companies are already planning for the day you can sit back and close your eyes. Once we are fully hands-free, what better to do than catch a movie, go shopping or do some work on your way to work. Your future spare time in your vehicle has a large dollar sign attached to it.

Your automotive questions answered


My partner and I purchased a 2021 Volkswagen Atlas R-line December 2020. We upgraded from a 2018 VW Tiguan treadline, which we liked but needed something with more space. Within the first month of owning the vehicle, we started having problems with the Infotainment system (Bluetooth, Radio, volume, back-up camera, memory seat and climate control).

Our vehicle has been at the dealership six times trying to resolve this issue. Every time the dealership ensures us the problem has been fixed and we drive off, only to soon find the problems have not been fixed. Our radio has now been changed twice and the service manager wants to change it for a third time. We haven’t been able to get beyond the service manager as a point of contact. We have asked for the contact information of the regional VW rep, but to no avail. We are paying for a vehicle that is either not properly functioning or sitting in the service center at the dealership.

What are our options?

Kind regards, Rene L.

I am sorry for your difficulties Rene; I know it is frustrating. The phone number for Volkswagen Canada customer care is 1 (800) 668-8224. You must first open a claim there. Once head office staff has initiated a dispute request, they will elevate and forward it to the proper regional manager. Asking the dealership to do this for you will have limited results as you have discovered. Document everything and record videos of the problem whenever possible. Good luck.

I have a 2004 VW Jetta TDI Sport that I am restoring. VW’s have had six-speed manual transmissions for a few years now, am I able to mate a VW six-speed manual transmission or any other transmission to my TDI to make it more fuel efficient?

Also, would I be able to add a Mechanical Limited Slip Differential?

If I am able to add a six-speed to my car, what would be the specific code be for that transmission?

Thank you, Lou, Angelo M.

As I understand it, you have a 2004 TDI that you want to restore and convert to a six-speed manual transmission with limited slip differential. As far as I am aware, there is no easy swap where one can purchase a six-speed transmission from donor car A and bolt it straight into car B (your car). There are, however, aftermarket companies that sell kits which internally and/or externally modify donor transmission A so it can be used in car B. These kits are typically sold to enthusiasts for racing. The amount of research required to figure out what will work will be significant. The immediate and pressing question is, why? Why would you want to spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle that would be worth far less than the sum of its parts? The gear ratio difference from a five-speed to a six will not be huge. In my mind it is doubtful that the fuel savings will be enough to overcome initial costs and future headaches.

It’s amazing how many phone calls I receive per year from drivers wanting to convert their vehicle from an automatic to manual transmission. I thought manual transmissions were dead. Perusing online sales forums, I see many enthusiasts selling their projects and modified cars. Cars they have spent tens of thousands on, for pennies on the dollar. My answer is always the same. Sell your current vehicle and buy something close to what you want from someone else who has already spent the money. You might win or you might lose, but I am confident that spending the money on your own car is a guaranteed loss.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.