Ontario to regulate autonomous vehicles

Published: September 1, 2015

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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The age of the autonomous vehicle is here, with driverless cars earmarked for the consumer market before 2020. The Province of Ontario is already putting regulations in place on testing autonomous vehicles in the territory, including placing requirements on drivers at first.

Jessica Mahon, team leader, special projects at the Ontario ministry of transportation sat on a panel at a presentation at the Insurance-Canada.ca Executive Forum, held at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto. Entitled Automotive Technology, Transformation and Risk, Mahon said that the ministry is putting together something to build on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s mandate letter calling for autonomous vehicle regulation.

"We are trying to put together something right now," Mahon said. "In terms of next steps, it will be presented to decision makers shortly. I don't have a time frame today."

She also added that regulations on so-called driverless cars in Ontario will be made.

MTO is "looking at it solely from a road safety perspective," Mahon added. "For example, we don't intend to permit driverless cars right off the bat. We will require that a driver be in the driver's seat, ready to intervene at any time should something fail."

Most autonomous vehicles in testing and those close to reaching production now often have the driver in the front seat ready to take control of the vehicle at any time. This according to the noise coming from Ontarian authorities is something the province will act to regulate even as this kind of technology becomes more popular.

Matthew Turak, the president of insurance for the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) thinks this would be something worth regulating and cited the fact that airplane pilots are still there to take control of aircraft if necessary, despite the fact that many facets of flights are now automated.

Insurance companies will have to think what policies they will place on autonomous vehicles and coverage will certainly change based on the differing factors of driver-less vehicles. Aviva Canada president Sharon Ludlow agrees and also thinks insurance providers now need to take into account mobile apps, with some police now accepting pink slip proof via an app, despite the law demanding paper proof.

"Police are reportedly accepting the image as proof of insurance if the pink slip isn't available, and the Alberta Registries agents are accepting the application-based pink slip as proof of insurance to get your plates issued," Ludlow said. "It seems only the regulator is enforcing the notion of an actual printed pink slip, and so there is direct lobbying to the regulator to formally remove this requirement, and while it is not fully legal today, it appears that the application version of this pink slip is being accepted, at least in most circumstances."