What does the law say about self-driving cars?

Whether you like it or not, it appears that self-driving cars are here to stay and as technology improves, Ontario's roadways may soon be busy with them. Miraculously, these cars are capable of sensing their surroundings, and with artificial intelligence, they can pilot themselves without a driver. Although they are not exactly approved for everyone yet, Ontario law does allow for the pilot testing of these futuristic cars.

The reason for allowing the cars to be tested on our roads is because of the enormous benefits they are set to bring if they can be safely designed. Those benefits include less traffic congestion, better mobility, lower GHG emissions, better transportation of people and goods, reduced instances of driver error, increased road safety and more.

The pilot program, which is intended to last 10 years, has a number of rules and restrictions associated with it. First, drivers must be in the driver's seat at all times when a self-driving car is in operation. Only approved vehicle manufacturers are permitted to participate. Participants in the program need to maintain at least $5,000,000 in auto insurance. Highway rules must be obeyed or the vehicle owner and/or driver will be penalized. Vehicles have to adhere to Motor Vehicle Safety Act requirements. There are more requirements as well, but the above are the most relevant for consideration.

Driverless automobiles certainly beg the question: Who will be at fault if a driverless car causes a crash? Is it the manufacturer of the car, the driver, the owner or all three? Clearly, in future years, these and other important legal questions will need to be addressed by Ontario personal injury courts.

Source: mto.gov.on.ca, "Automated Vehicles - Driving Innovation in Ontario," accessed Sep. 09, 2016

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