Autonomous cars have really taken off in the last few years, particularly due to the interest of both consumers and the businesses who develop and improve them. In this context, on April 5 and 10, 2017, the City of Montréal and the Government of Québec respectively announced significant investments in the electrification and intelligent transportation sector to make the Province of Québec a pioneer of that industry.

Investments from the City of Montréal and the Government of Québec

The City of Montréal intends to invest $3.6M toward the creation of the Institute on Electrification and Intelligent Transportation, created as a part of the Transportation Electrification Strategy developed to fight climate change and promote innovation. The creation of the Institute on Electrification and Intelligent Transportation is one of the ten strategic orientations that the Transportation Electrification Strategy puts forward. The City of Montréal explains that [TRANSLATION] “the Institute will rely on the collaboration of partners, including universities and the Innovation District, and on the availability of land near downtown Montréal in order to create a world-class site to develop, experiment and promote innovation and new concepts in the field of electric and intelligent transportation ”.1 The mission of the Institute is, among other things, to create a testing corridor and an experimentation area in downtown Montréal for autonomous vehicles.

In addition, an autonomous shuttle project is already under way, involving “Arma” minibuses developed by Navya, a partner of the Keolis Group. These vehicles are automated at level 5, meaning that they are entirely automated. The first road test is anticipated to take place in the context of the International Association of Public Transport’s (UITP) Global Public Transport Summit, which will be held in Montréal from May 15 to 17, 2017.

For its part, the Government of Québec has undertaken to invest $4.4M [TRANSLATION] “to support the electric and intelligent vehicles industrial cluster”2. This industrial cluster will be set up in spring 2017 and its business plan will be established by an advisory committee created for such purpose. [TRANSLATION] “The cluster will help position Québec among the world leaders in the development of ground transportation and their transition to an all-electric and intelligent transportation” stated Dominique Anglade, Minister of Economy, Science and Innovation and Minister responsible for the Digital Strategy.

Issues related to driving autonomous vehicles in Québec

Intelligent cars were introduced in the Québec market and have earned their place over the last few years. They are referred to as autonomous when they possess at least a “conditional” degree of automation, commonly referred to as level 3 on the scale of automation degrees.3 This level of automation allows for dynamic driving of the vehicle by its control system but requires the driver to remain available.

Under the Québec Automobile Insurance Act4, the owner of an automobile is liable for the property damage caused by such automobile with some exceptions. This statute also provides for a no-fault liability regime allowing victims of a car accident to claim an indemnity for the bodily injuries they suffer. As to the Highway Safety Code5, it governs, among other things, the use of vehicles on public roads.

To our knowledge, no legislative amendment has been proposed to this day to fill this legal void prior to autonomous vehicles appearing on the Québec roads. In this regard, it is appropriate to note that the Province of Ontario recently passed the Regulation 306/156, which outlines who may drive autonomous vehicles on Ontario roads and in which context.

Comments

Many questions remain unanswered as to the content of the projects and initiatives recently announced by the City of Montréal and the Government of Québec. This lack of information creates uncertainty as to the scope of specific regulations governing the use of autonomous vehicles in the Province of Québec which would possibly need to be passed. However, Ms. Elsie Lefebvre, Associate councilor for the City of Montréal, responsible for the Transportation Electrification Strategy, declared that [TRANSLATION] “there will be guidelines and the projects will be supervised to ensure that there is no danger on the road”, without giving details on the scope of such measures.

In the wake of these announcements, many issues deserve to be discussed. What will be the degree of automation of the autonomous vehicles allowed to be driven in the Province of Québec? Who will drive these vehicles and who will insure them? Will special permits be required? Will these vehicles be allowed to be driven on public roads or exclusively on closed circuits? In the event of an accident, who will be held liable? What will be the legislative measures passed to adequately govern the use of these vehicles? Many questions remain and not many answers are provided for the time being. This is something to follow