Legislative framework still needed for autonomous vehicles

Google started the white-hot hype around driverless cars, but technological barriers notwithstanding, experts say a legislative framework is still needed before the vehicles can be made available to the public.
By Dylan O’Hagan
Peterborough, Ontario — May 2, 2016 — Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are coming at some point.  It could be as soon as the year 2020 according to Barrie Kirk, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE), but currently there is little to no legislation in place to deal with these vehicles. The Canadian government has yet to set specific regulations around driverless vehicles and Kirk says a regulatory framework is still necessary for AVs to exist in Canada.
CAVCOE was created to help other organizations get ready for the introduction of autonomous vehicles. They provide consulting services, analyses and recommendations to stakeholders involved in the deployment of automated vehicles or those who will be impacted by their arrival. These stakeholders include all levels of government, public sector agencies, private sector companies and industry associations.
Kirk notes that the the introduction of AVs is approaching quickly but rules and regulations governing them are still not in place. 
“Canada is in charge of vehicle standards. Any kind of new vehicle has to meet standards and with autonomous vehicles the standards have to change,” says Kirk. “In the 2016 Canadian Federal budget, the government did set aside some money for Transport Canada to set up a legislative framework for Canada, which is excellent. At the same time the provinces and territories are responsible for the operation of the vehicles. So driver licenses, the highway drivers act, are provincial and territorial responsibilities. So the introduction of AV’s will require the regulatory framework by both levels of government.”
Several steps have already been taken by Transport Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Transport (MTO). Natasha Gauthier is the Senior Media Relations Advisor for Transport Canada. She says Transport Canada has been assessing some of the components of automated vehicles for many years, including the safety performance of automated braking systems. She added other technologies like vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications and connected vehicle (CV) technology will be key in transition to driverless vehicles.  
“V2V systems enable vehicles, transportation infrastructure, and handheld personal devices to ‘talk’ to each other,” says Gauthier. “These systems are referred to as ‘connected vehicle’ technologies in North America and are crucial for safety, efficiency, and the operations of automated vehicles. In addition, CVs can provide information about weather conditions which in-vehicle sensors may not detect.”
In October 2014, Transport Canada announced $1.5 million in funding to support the development of a Canadian Connected Vehicle test-bed. This will be  used to test and evaluate emerging CV and automated vehicle systems in the coming years, according to Gauthier. In 2015, the G7 Transport Ministers committed to creating an automated vehicles working group.
“As automated and connected technologies are a global issue requiring coordination between governments and industry, Transport Canada officials are also engaged in several domestic and international bodies that are looking into harmonizing standards and regulations for automated vehicles, as we well as infrastructure, technology, and cyber security needs that will need to be addressed,” says Gauthier. 
Several steps have also been taken by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation in preparation for the mainstream introduction of autonomous vehicles. As of January 1, 2016, automotive manufacturers can be a part of a pilot program to test AVs on Ontario roads. Participants in the pilot must be the original manufacturer of the vehicle, a technology company, an academic research institution or a parts manufacturer for automated driving systems. 
Bob Nichols is the Senior Media Liaison Officer for Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation. He says the pilot program will help the Ministry establish rules, monitor industry development and evaluate the safety of AVs before they become available.
“Ontario’s pilot will allow policy makers to gather information with respect to road safety and other aspects of automated driving to inform future policy decisions,” says Nichols. 
Watch collisionrepairmag.com for more updates on the legislation and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles. 
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