Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek has announced that, as of Jan. 1, participants in Ontario’s automated vehicle pilot program can test driverless cars on public roadways, under strict conditions. Those conditions include having either a passenger in the vehicle or a remote operator monitoring the vehicle.
Local authorities will also have to be alerted of any test, the government said.
The pilot program’s nine participants – including BlackBerry’s QNX, Magna, Uber and the University of Waterloo – are currently testing 10 vehicles, but aren’t yet using fully driverless ones.
Ontario was the first jurisdiction in Canada to allow on-road testing of automated vehicles when the 10-year pilot project launched in 2016.
Yurek also announced that members of the public will be able to drive “Level 3” conditionally automated vehicles, which manage most safety-critical driving functions but the driver must be ready to take control of the vehicle at all times.
The use of those vehicles had previously been restricted to participants in the pilot project. The Progressive Conservative government says it isn’t aware of any such vehicles for sale in Canada yet, but once they become available, they will be allowed on Ontario roads.
Anyone driving a vehicle with any level of automation is still required to be attentive at all times and obey all laws.
The pilot program participants can also now test “platooning” technology, which is when vehicles – particularly commercial ones – with smart technology communicate with and closely follow one another. It could save fuel, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve road safety, the government said.
The changes were first proposed last year by the previous Liberal government.