Canada: Ontario Drives Ahead With Public Road Testing Of Autonomous Vehicles

On January 22, 2019, Ontario's Ministry of Transportation (Ministry) moved one step closer to a future with driverless vehicles by expanding its 10-year pilot project to test and evaluate the use of automated vehicles (AVs) on Ontario roadways.

Effective January 1, 2019, eligible participants in the Automated Vehicle Pilot Program (AV Pilot) are permitted to remotely operate automated passenger and commercial vehicles and streetcars on public roadways without a passenger in the driver's seat of the vehicle (Driverless AVs). Prior to this announcement, automated vehicles were only permitted on public roadways in Ontario if a driver was always seated in the driver's seat of the AV and monitoring the vehicle's operation. In addition, AVs equipped with Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) international driving automation level 3 can now be driven on Ontario roads and are no longer restricted to pilot participants, subject to certain conditions.

At the same time, the Ministry announced a separate pilot program for cooperative truck platooning (Platoon Pilot). A cooperative truck platoon means two or more commercial motor vehicles that use an advanced driver assistance system and vehicle-to-vehicle communication system to travel in a convoy where the vehicles steer, accelerate and brake cooperatively and synchronously.

These announcements are in connection with the Ministry's 10-year pilot project launched in 2016 to test and evaluate the use of AVs on Ontario roadways and the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network, established by the Ontario government to build upon Ontario's position as a world-leading automotive manufacturing and supply jurisdiction.


To participate in the AV Pilot, which involves vehicles operating at SAE levels 4 or 5 (and, in certain cases, level 3), interested parties must submit an application to the Ministry in the prescribed form. As of the most recent announcement, only the following types of applicants are eligible to participate in the AV Pilot:

  • Auto manufacturers, as defined in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act
  • Technology companies
  • Academic and research institutions
  • Manufacturers of parts, systems, equipment or components for AVs.

To preserve public safety and the empirical nature of the AV Pilot, approved participants (Pilot Participants) must adhere to several strict requirements when testing Driverless AVs, including:

  • The Driverless AV must be manufactured and/or equipped only by a Pilot Participant
  • The Driverless AV must be overseen by a person on board the Driverless AV or remotely and, in either case, that person must be capable of intervening during the operation of the Driverless AV
  • The Highway Traffic Act and standard police collision reporting rules will apply to the Driverless AV
  • The Driverless AV must be insured under a contract of automobile insurance with a licensed insurance company in Ontario and such policy must provide for C$5-million of liability coverage or, if the Driverless AV has a seating capacity of eight or more passengers, C$8-million of liability coverage
  • Pilot Participants must alert local authorities prior to testing a Driverless AV and indicate where and when testing will occur.


AVs that are equipped with SAE level 3 technology that are available for public purchase in Canada can now be driven on Ontario roads and are no longer restricted to Pilot Participants. A human driver is required to be in full care and control of the AV at all times. This exemption from the AV Pilot does not apply to AVs with aftermarket SAE level 3 technology, that is technology that has been added to a vehicle after sale, not by an Original Equipment Manufacturer.


The Ministry is allowing a limited pilot of truck platoons to demonstrate their potential, compatibility with existing road users and infrastructure and confirm their overall safety. Applicants must complete a prescribed form. As the number of participants is limited, not all applicants who apply and satisfy the preconditions to participation may be approved.

Conditions to participation in the Platoon Pilot include:

  • Trucks must be equipped with SAE level 1 or 2 technology
  • A driver is required in each AV to steer and take over full manual control of the AV if required
  • A maximum of three AVs is permitted in each platoon
  • The platoon must only operate on certain designated highways, which include portions of the 400 series of highways, and only with notice and approval from the Ministry of the days and times of testing
  • Reporting requirements, including an annual report, as well as the requirement to complete daily reports to be provided to the Ministry on demand
  • Limits on the types of cargo that may be carried
  • A declaration of the cybersecurity measures taken by the applicant


As AV technology continues to advance and Ontario moves ever closer to mass adoption of fully automated vehicles, stakeholders at all levels of the automotive value-chain should be mindful of this evolving landscape and both the challenges and opportunities that it presents. In particular, the shift towards full automation will impact consumer buying habits, the flow of talent and labour, insurance coverage, product liability issues, investments in public infrastructure and the broader flow of goods and services in and out of the province, as well as raise additional cybersecurity issues. Stakeholders should prepare now in order to capitalize on the vast economic potential of AV technology.

We will continue to monitor the AV Pilot and the Platoon Pilot and provide updates as they are made available by the Ministry.

For permission to reprint articles, please contact the Blakes Marketing Department.

© 2018 Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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