Driverless Vehicles Coming To Ontario: What Are The Liability Issues? - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

Driverless Vehicles Coming To Ontario: What Are The Liability Issues?


Cruise control and antilock braking systems were once seen as technological breakthroughs. Today, most vehicles on the road have them as standard features that most drivers rarely give much thought to except when they put them to use. Those features that we now take for granted were the forerunners of the technology that would eventually result in autonomous or driverless vehicles cruising along Ontario roads as companies test them for eventual sale to the general public. A vehicle with the capability of navigating through city streets, high-speed highways and rural roads without a driver might seem like science fiction, but they are real and so are the liability issues they present in the event of an accident.

Ontario first province to allow testing of driverless vehicles

Ontario approved a pilot program allowing driverless vehicles to be tested on its roads and highways in 2016. There are few restrictions on the companies with vehicles to test other than a requirement that a licensed driver be in the vehicle at all times in much the same way as with traditional vehicles, but the driver’s presence is not to drive the vehicle. The driver is present as a precaution in the event something goes wrong.

Autonomous cars are classified using a scale with six levels based upon the technology in the vehicle. The levels and the technology associated with each one are as follows:

  • Level 0: These vehicles are equipped with no automation other than cruise control engaged by the driver.
  • Level 1: These vehicles have limited autonomous features requiring assistance from the driver, including adaptive cruise control that maintains the distance from other vehicles as set by the driver and technology to keep the vehicle within its lane of travel.
  • Level 2: Vehicles in this classification are not self-driving, but they have features offering very limited self-driving capabilities.
  • Level 3: A vehicle at this level has more self-driving capability than a Level 2 vehicle, but drivers must take once the vehicle reaches a certain speed.
  • Level 4: The driver is present only in the event of a problem, such as extreme weather conditions, that the vehicle cannot handle on its own.
  • Level 5: At this level, the vehicle drives itself and does not require a person to drive it or take over at any time.

Ontario has authorized the testing of Level 3, 4 and 5 cars on roads within the province.

What happens when something goes wrong?

Fully autonomous cars and trucks were predicted to eliminate accidents. The technology in each vehicle would recognize hazards and take action to avoid them. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong.

An autonomous car being tested by Uber struck and killed a woman as she crossed the street. Police reported the car was travelling at 65 kph when it hit the woman. The accident, which happened in the United States, prompted Uber to suspend its testing of the vehicles throughout North America, including Toronto.

Liability when autonomous cars have accidents

When someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident, the question of liability focuses on the drivers and whether they were negligent in operating their vehicles. Autonomous vehicles without drivers controlling them depend upon the technology built into them by their manufacturers.

If something goes wrong, as it might have done with the Uber vehicle accident, liability might focus on the technology instead of on the actions of a driver. As with any type of accident resulting in an injury, obtaining compensation for the victims will depend upon the knowledge and skill of the personal injury lawyer representing them.

Ontario personal injury lawyers

The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond have years of experience successfully handling claims for compensation on behalf of individuals injured due to the negligence of others. If you have suffered an injury in an accident, you should speak to one of our lawyers. Call the Diamond and Diamond 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now. We offer free consultations and case evaluations to injury victims throughout Ontario.

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