autonomous motor vehicles

Autonomous Motor Vehicles Coming to Ontario Roads: The Breakdown

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is underway in Detroit and I’m really looking forward to going this year. While seeing the new models of motor vehicles is always exciting, I definitely will be paying close attention to the new technologies manufacturers and related industries will be revealing as we move toward autonomous motor vehicles and connectedness.

While Michigan seems well underway in their development and testing of autonomous vehicles, Ontario is leading Canada in this emerging industry. A year ago, Ontario became the first Canadian province to create the regulatory framework for the testing of autonomous vehicles on our roadways with the release of the Ontario Regulation Pilot Project-Automated Vehicles.

The industry recognizes five different levels of driving automation:

  • Level 0- no automation
  • Level 1- driver assistance
  • Level 2- partial automation
  • Level 3- conditional automation
  • Level 4- high automation
  • Level 5- full automation

Many current vehicle models are equipped with features of Level 1 and 2 automation such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure prevention, blind spot warnings, pedestrian and other object detection, cameras, and self- parking. The Ontario Pilot Project is concerned with motor vehicles operating at driving automation Levels 3-5.

The Regulation established the process by which manufacturers and technology companies can test motor vehicles with sophisticated automated driving systems where there is limited or no “dynamic driving tasks” being performed by the human driver. More specifically, functions such as steering, braking, accelerating, responding to events, changing lanes, and using signals. During the Pilot Project, a human driver is required to be in the driver’s seat of the motor vehicle to monitor its operation. The vehicle must be equipped with a mechanism to easily allow the human driver to engage and disengage the automated driver system. There must also be an alert to notify the human driver of a failure of the automated driving system and a way to allow the human driver to take over all dynamic driving tasks.

The rules of the road apply to these vehicles during the Pilot Project and liability of the owner and human driver for collisions is maintained. Indeed such autonomous vehicles must carry a minimum of $5 million in third party liability insurance (which is 25 times the minimum amount an Ontario driver is required to have on a non-automated vehicle.) There are also very strict reporting requirements to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles in the event of any collisions during the Pilot Project.

Most motor vehicle collisions are caused by human error. The expectation is, certainly, that the move to autonomous motor vehicles will take that human element out of the equation with the hope of safer roads. Time will tell.

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