Automated Vehicles - Frequently Asked Questions

What is a fully automated vehicle?

A fully automated vehicle (AV) is a driverless or self-driving vehicle, capable of sensing its environment using artificial intelligence, sensors and global positioning system coordinates to drive itself without human input.

However, systems in cars today, such as adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and self-parking vehicles, are considered semi-automated driver assistance systems.  These vehicles are not part of Ontario’s automated testing pilot.

Why did the government implement an automated vehicle pilot regulation?

Conducting a pilot is the first step to showcase Ontario as a leader in technology development and as a dynamic and innovative place to do business.

A pilot phase allows the ministry to establish rules, monitor industry developments, and evaluate the safety of AVs prior to them becoming widely available to the public.

A pilot regulatory framework to facilitate the testing of automated vehicles on Ontario’s roads is expected to:

  • Assist in the development of made in Ontario technology;
  • Enhance road safety;
  • Encourage training and employment opportunities for systems engineering and development jobs in Ontario; and
  • Demonstrate Ontario’s willingness to work with industry to develop new technologies and bring them to the marketplace.

The pilot will ensure that the province’s roads remain safe without creating new regulatory burdens that could stifle investment or innovation in Ontario.

How does MTO expect road safety to be impacted by the use of automated vehicles?

MTO does not expect any negative impact on road safety.  Testing in other jurisdictions suggests that road safety is maintained or enhanced.

When will AVs be available on the market?

There are conflicting views among industry leaders as to when AVs will be widely available to the public.  Some industry leaders predict that AVs will be market-ready anywhere from 2017 to 2040.

What levels of automation does the pilot capture?

For the purposes of Ontario’s testing pilot, “automated vehicle” means a motor vehicle, commercial motor vehicle, or a street car, excluding a motorcycle or motor-assisted bicycle, with an automated driving system that operates at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International driving automation Level 3, 4 or 5 as described below.

Level 3 - Conditional Automation: An automated driving system controls all aspects of the dynamic driving task with the expectation that the human driver will respond appropriately to a request to intervene.

Level 4 - High Automation: An automated driving system controls all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene.

Level 5 - Full Automation: The full-time control by an automated driving system of all aspects of the driving task under all roadway and environmental conditions.

NOTE: Dynamic driving task includes the operational (steering, braking, accelerating, monitoring the vehicle and roadway) and tactical (responding to events, determining when to change lanes, turn, use signals, etc.) aspects of the driving task, but not the strategic (determining destinations and waypoints) aspect of the driving task.

Why does the pilot’s regulation require a driver to be in the driver seat, able to take control?  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of testing automated features?

The Act of driving a motor vehicle while the driver is not sitting in the driver seat is currently prohibited under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA).  Subsection 3(6) of Ontario Regulation 455/07 states the following:

For the purposes of section 172 of the Act, “stunt” includes any activity where one or more persons engage in any of the following driving behaviours:
(6) Driving a motor vehicle while the driver is not sitting in the driver’s seat.

Given that this technology is evolving, a safety measure in Ontario’s pilot requires that the driver be able to take control over an AV in case an unexpected event occurs. Road safety is paramount in Ontario, noting other jurisdictions have used a similar approach.

As AV technology continues to improve, how is Ontario preparing for the arrival of more vehicles with more automated driving features?

Ontario recognizes the importance of new vehicle technology and is aware that many companies are developing technologies that automate the operation of motor vehicles. MTO, along with Transport Canada and other Canadian jurisdictions are monitoring practices, developments and the latest research.

Are there challenges to testing AVs in Ontario?

The pilot was developed to safely test and evaluate AVs under prescribed conditions before they become widely available to the public.

Some challenges could include how AVs operate in adverse weather conditions which has been the experience in some other jurisdictions where AVs are tested.

The purpose of the regulatory framework is in response to how the technology is rapidly advancing -- MTO wants to ensure a safe AV pilot that does not create a burden or preclude advancements toward commercialization.

To mitigate these challenges, on an ongoing basis throughout the 10 year pilot the MTO will assess the data and information gathered about the on-road use of AVs, and make amendments to the pilot framework, if required.

The regulation requires that a driver be present behind the wheel at all times and able to take control if needed. This safety requirement was built in to permit testing in a number of different environments while still protecting road safety.

Are there any long-term environmental (e.g. climate change) benefits to AVs?

AVs have the potential to reduce emissions if they result in more efficient movement, and reduced congestion, leading to an overall reduction in fossil fuel consumption.

In 2013, the transportation sector was Ontario’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 35% of the province’s emissions.  The largest sources of emissions in this sector were passenger cars and light-duty trucks, accounting for over half of the sector’s emissions. Additionally, in 2013, transportation accounted for 35% of the human sources of volatile organic compounds emissions and 69% of the nitrogen oxides emissions.

Passenger cars and light-duty trucks are the largest sources of carbon monoxide emissions.

What are the potential benefits of AVs?

AV technology is well underway but the testing is not yet complete.  As such, the true benefits of the technology are difficult to identify.  Some studies have suggested that AV technology could result in:

  • Fewer traffic collisions through improved collision avoidance and reduced driver error
  • Reduction in traffic congestion/increase in highway capacity
  • Improved fuel efficiency
  • Reduced vehicle emissions
  • Convenience, time savings and lower stress for drivers and commuters
  • Enhanced mobility and mobility equity
  • Improved efficiency of infrastructure use (roads and parking)
  • Emergence of new transportation service models
  • Applications to public transit

Other benefits could be related to economic development, advancement of innovation, improved infrastructure, enhanced environment and land-use planning.

Where will AVs be allowed to operate in Ontario during this testing phase—any public road/highway?  Max speed limit?

Ontario’s pilot framework does not limit AVs to select roadways or highways. All existing HTA rules of the road/laws, including speed limits, and penalties will apply to the driver/vehicle owner – there are no exceptions.

Will there be any identifying markers required on these vehicles, so that other drivers are aware of them?  If not, why not?

No special permits, plates or identifiers will be required under the pilot regulation.

Based on existing research and experiences in other jurisdictions MTO doesn’t anticipate that a test pilot of AVs will act differently than the typical vehicle found on-road today.  In addition, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that AVs with special markings or identifiers may result in higher risk as other road users attempt to engage the automated technology.

MTO’s pilot regulation requires that the driver must remain seated in the driver’s seat at all times monitoring the safe operation of the AV, and be capable of taking over immediate manual control.

Are homemade/rebuilt automated vehicles eligible to participate in the pilot?

No. The purpose of this pilot is to assist the ministry to establish rules, monitor industry developments, and evaluate the safety of AVs prior to them becoming widely available to the public. As such, participation in the pilot is limited to auto manufacturers defined within the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Canada), technology companies, academic and research institutions and a manufacturer of parts, systems, equipment or components for automated driving systems.

Is there a cost to participate in the AV pilot program?

There is no cost to participate in the pilot. However, registration fees will apply (e.g. plate, permit, validation, etc.) for AVs to travel on Ontario’s roads. To participate in Ontario’s pilot program, please fill out the application form.

Where can we get additional information on the OCE CVAV program?

The Connected Vehicle/Automated Vehicle (CVAV) Program is a partnership between the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and Ontario Centres of Excellence.

The program encourages businesses and academic institutions to develop and commercialize innovations in connected and automated vehicle technologies that focus on projects demonstrating strong potential for commercialization.

More information on the program and how to apply for project funding is available on the Ontario Centres of Excellence web site –

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