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Autonomous Vehicle Laws In Canada: Provincial & Territorial Regulatory Review – Rail, Road & Cycling


In this article, we build on our 2021 Cross-Canada AV legislative update to
provide an updated snapshot of the current autonomous vehicles
regulatory and legislative framework in Canada.

Automated vehicles in Canada: Scope of current regulations

In Canada, AV technology and testing is a shared responsibility
between the federal and provincial or territorial governments.
Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for
regulating individual drivers and vehicle operation in their
respective jurisdictions, whereas the federal government (through
Transport Canada) creates safety regulations for vehicles that are
sold within, or imported to Canada.

Transport Canada has established guidelines
that outline the processes required to establish safe automotive
vehicle testing and trials on Canadian roads. These guidelines
operate in conjunction with provincial laws and regulations for
each jurisdiction. Both levels of government must be consistent and
methodical in balancing innovation, adoption and public safety
amidst the explosive growth of the AV sector that is pushing for
higher levels of automation.1


British Columbia

The Motor Vehicles Act regulates the use of motor
vehicles within British Columbia, but does not reference how AVs
are governed or regulated by the Act. The Insurance Corporation of
British Columbia (ICBC) has provided some guidance regarding AV
operation in the province, stating that AVs do not qualify for insurance
as BC laws do not permit driverless vehicles. This
approach is in line with how federal regulations clearly state
driverless AVs are not permitted in Canada for the
general public, on public roads and highways.


The Traffic Safety Act governs the regulation of motor
vehicles within Alberta, but does not explicitly state how AVs are
governed or regulated by the Act. Alberta is seeing an economic shift towards a stronger renewable
fuel economy
and it is anticipated that the province will adopt regulations addressing the use
of AVs
. While Alberta does not currently address the operation
of AVs directly via legislation, the province continues to pilot
numerous innovative programs, including pilot programs involving
long-haul trucks, an industry that is poised to take advantage of
AV technology.

In March 2022, the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA)
completed a trial on truck platooning, between Edmonton and
Calgary. Truck platooning relies on semi-autonomous controls
between two vehicles. The lead platoon truck driver is responsible
for accelerating and braking, while the vehicle platooning behind
it relies on connectivity technology and automated driving support
systems to follow the lead platoon in transit. Backed by $2.3
million in funding from Transport Canada, two Peterbilt 579
tractor-trailers completed 21 trips between the two cities
using this AV based technology.


The Saskatchewan Traffic Safety Amendment Act, 2020 was
enacted to govern the regulation of AVs in Saskatchewan. Provisions
related to the use of AVs are not yet in force, however c 36 of the
Act provides contemporary definitions that detail the application
process for permits and rules of the road, regarding automated and
connected vehicles. Once in force, these amendments will provide
Saskatchewan’s provincial administrator the authority to issue
vehicle permits for the operation of AVs or connected vehicles
(with each permit defining relevant operational terms and


The Vehicle Technology Testing Act governs the
regulation of AVs within Manitoba and allows the Minister to issue
a “technology testing permit”, thereby allowing a
“test vehicle” to be driven with or without an automatic
driving system engaged.

Notably, for AV testing purposes, the legislation carves out an
exemption that allows the operation of AVs where, in the absence of
a technology testing permit, the operation of the vehicle would
otherwise breach highway law requirements found in various acts and
regulations. Specifically, with the issuance of a technology
testing permit, mandatory insurance that is issued by Manitoba
Public Insurance is not required for drivers of a test vehicle,
once they have satisfied the requirements to receive a technology
testing permit within the province. However, where a driver of a
test vehicle is responsible for an accident, Manitoba Public
Insurance may recover the costs of property damage and personal
injury against the holder of the permit.


The Highway Traffic Act governs the regulation of AVs
within Ontario, informed by guidance from the Ministry of
Transportation (Ontario) under the Automated Vehicle Pilot Program (Ontario
Regulation 306/15: Pilot Project – Automated Vehicles).
Within Ontario’s current regime, the public can drive a SAE
level 3 vehicle that is commercially available in Canada (for
example, for sale and purchase). Level 4 and level 5 vehicles are
permitted for operation, only for authorized applicants and for
testing purposes. The Automated Vehicle Pilot Program specifies
that the applicant must demonstrate or provide the following:

  • A declaration that the technology is safe and effective based
    on previous testing and may be asked for proof;

  • Accept full liability;

  • Inform the Ministry of Transportation (Ontario) of the
    environment and limits the automated vehicle is designed to work in
    (i.e., operational design parameters);

  • Individual driver ability to monitor and control the vehicle,
    if required to; and

  • Individual driver ability to bring the automated vehicle to a
    safe stop if necessary and explain how a safe stop will be

Applicants who receive authorization to test AVs (levels 4 and
5) have additional obligations under the regulations, including
reporting and record retention requirements.


The Québec Highway Safety Code governs the
regulation of AVs within Québec, with joint guidance from Le
ministère des Transports (du Québec) and
Société de l’assurance automobile du
Québec (SAAQ) under the Autonomous Buses and Minibuses Pilot

Currently, Québec allows AV driving to the general public
at SAE level 3 for vehicles that are authorized for sale and
purchase in Canada. Québec has specific Pilot Projects in
place that allow for AV testing for SAE level 4 and 5 vehicles for
permitted stakeholders (i.e., a manufacturer, distributer
or operator as provided in the Health Safety Code) who
receive authorization to test the AVs. This authorization must be
granted jointly from a committee made up of Le ministère des
Transports (du Québec) and SAAQ members. The Minister of
Transportation then sets the rules and conditions for the
implementation of any pilot project and authorizes any person or
body to use a vehicle in compliance with the standards and rules
they prescribe.

Two key pilot projects were deployed under the Québec
pilot regulatory framework (in Candiac and Montréal)
including what was hailed as Canada’s first self-driving
electric shuttle. We previously provided summary highlights of
these two pilots in our article, “Driverless vehicles: Two years of autonomy on
Québec roads

Nova Scotia

The Traffic Safety Act will govern the
regulation of AVs in Nova Scotia upon royal proclamation. While
provisions related to the use of AVs are not yet in force, the
Traffic Safety Act will authorize the Minister of
Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (the Minister) to
regulate AVs. Once in force, these amendments grant the Minister
the authority to impose insurance requirements for the operation of

New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and

Beyond more traditional legislation related to road use and
insurance, these respective provinces have not yet developed a
regulatory framework to specifically address testing and deployment
of AVs. It is likely that these East Coast provinces will enact
legislation to regulate testing and use of AVs as they become more

In lieu of current vehicle legislation, New Brunswick is one of
six named provinces that is a part of the Natural Resources Canada
(NRCan) $2.4 million investment in 500 Level 2 charges that will be
installed in 68 Indigo Park Canada locations, across the country.
NRCan has a Zero-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program
that aims to help the Government of Canada reach its mandatory
target for all new light-duty cars and passenger trucks to become
zero-emission by 2035. Indigo Park Canada is matching NRCan’s
investment of $2.4 million, to bring the total project cost to $4.8
million in funding for this project.

Additionally, Prince Edward Island is one of five provinces that
is a part of Electrify Canada’s network for expansion that will
see the installation of DC fast charging stations for electrical
vehicles. Electrify Canada, being a subsidiary of the Volkswagen
Group, has already installed stations in Québec, Ontario,
Alberta and British Columbia. The company aims to be able to
provide electrical charging station coverage from coast to

Newfoundland and Labrador has not yet implemented any formal
legislation regarding AVs.

Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut

Canada’s territories currently do not have a regulatory
framework in place to address AV use on their respective roads. As
discussed in last year’s update, the unique and challenging
driving conditions in Canada’s territories offer an ideal
testing platform for AV manufacturers to obtain valuable data on AV
effectiveness in cold weather environments.

The Yukon government has recently initiated a series of
decisions that will see increased research and development of
electrical vehicle infrastructure, related to transportation. The
Yukon government’s Our Clean Future strategy specifically targets
a reduction in transportation based greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, coupled with electrical grid upgrade
announcements, the North West Territories continue to be a valuable
training environment for electrical vehicles, with a government plan to build out a charging
corridor that would bring up to 22 chargers at 100-kilometer
intervals along two of the territory’s major highways.

Nunavut has faced many barriers with respect to its existing
infrastructure, due to the inability to produce enough electricity
to power electric vehicle charging stations from local power plants
that currently operate on fossil fuels. Nunavut currently has no
electrical vehicle chargers or incentive programs that are being

Future outlook and issues: Insurance liability and

Currently, Canadian provinces handle the insurance liability and
coverage of AVs under each province’s respective laws. Broadly
speaking, these laws favour a finding of individual driver
liability in automobile accidents, rather than finding liability in
an automobile manufacturer or software developer (as is the case in
most other motor vehicle incidents).

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) published a report titled
Auto Insurance for Automated Vehicles: Preparing
for the Future of Mobility
” in anticipation of future
insurance regulation in the AV sector. IBC’s paper summarizes
the following three main recommendations to prepare Canadians for
insurance policies that specifically address AV operation and

  1. Establish a single insurance policy covering driver negligence
    and the automated technology to facilitate liability claims;

  2. Establish a legislated data-sharing arrangement with vehicle
    manufacturers and vehicle owners and/or insurers to help determine
    the cause of a collision; and

  3. Update the federal vehicle safety standards with technology and
    cyber security standards.

The most significant change proposed is recommendation number
one. This recommendation would require the AV insurer to compensate
injured people, regardless of whether the human operator or
autonomous technology was in control. This system of insurance
coverage, utilizing a single insurance policy, would ensure that
any person injured as a result of an AV collision would receive
immediate compensation and leave product liability matters to the
technology providers.


In 2023, we expect regulators will continue to work to modernize
the respective federal, provincial, and municipal regulatory
frameworks to assist with the safe adoption of autonomous vehicles
and mobility solutions in Canada.


1. Canada adheres to six levels of vehicle automation (0
to 5), which reference the Society of Automotive Engineers
International (SAE) standards for levels of driving automation in
autonomous vehicles. Level zero represents no automation and level
five represents full automation, self-driving vehicles.

About BLG

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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