driverless cars ontario

Self-driving cars are now allowed on Ontario streets

In an effort to better position itself as a leader in the field of automated technology, Doug Ford's provincial government has lifted some of the "burdensome regulations" surrounding self-driving cars in Ontario—with some exceptions.

First off, regular citizens can only drive automated vehicles that engineers have classified as a Level 3. This type of "eyes off" conditional automation lets a car manage most critical driving functions, but still requires a human to serve as co-pilot and be ready to take control of the vehicle at any time.

Being that there aren't even any cars with Level 3 technology available for purchase in Canada, it's not something that will impact us much in the near future.

What people who fear robo-cars do need to look out for are the actual driverless cars being tested as part of Ontario's Automated Vehicle Pilot Program.

As of January 1, approved auto manufacturers, tech companies, universities, research institutions and systems manufacturers are allowed to test vehicles up to automation Level 5 — capable of being completely driverless in all conditions without the need for a human.

Participants in the pilot program must first be approved by the government, of course, and can only test vehicles owned by their own company.

In all cases, a vehicle's driver remains responsible for obeying all existing traffic rules in Ontario—including distracted, careless and impaired driving laws—and is legally responsible for the car's safe operation.

"We're cutting red tape for Ontario universities, companies, and others involved in automated vehicles," said Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek this week while speaking about the pilot in Waterloo.

Yurek says the move is meant to "stimulate innovation, economic growth, market share and job creation" in Ontario, and that our province "is leading the nation in testing, developing and bringing these new technologies to market."

Only a handful of participants have been made public so far, but they're major players in the tech industry: BlackBerry, the University of Waterloo and Uber among them.

"We applaud the Government of Ontario for taking action to enable safe, on-road testing of self-driving vehicles without a human driver," Uber spokesperson Sarah Abboud is quoted as saying in government press release.

"Real-world testing will be crucial to realizing the benefits of automated driving in Ontario."

Let's hope things go better here than they did in Arizona.

Lead photo by

University of Waterloo's Autonomoose

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