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Use of driverless cars brings many questions for Ontario drivers

A row of Google self-driving Lexus cars (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Driverless cars are coming and along with them a lot of questions.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says they’ve had no talks with the Ministry of Transportation but spokesperson Steve Kee says rolling out this technology will impact their business.

“We are looking at this file. But this could actually change the way people and vehicles are insured in the future.”

“If I drive into the back of an autonomous vehicle, I’m at fault. If for some reason this vehicle drives into me, the rules in Ontario would be, it’s at fault.”

Ontario launched a pilot project Jan. 1 to allow for the testing of driverless cars on the province’s roads under certain conditions, but not a single firm has taken up the offer.

The province is also keeping a close eye on an investigation launched recently by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into a Florida collision between a Tesla Model S and a transport truck.

Tesla said sensors connected to its autopilot system failed to detect the white truck as it turned into the path of the car in May, killing the driver.

While Tesla’s autopilot is essentially a souped up cruise control, it’s nowhere near what happens when you fly an airplane.

“It’s far more complex on the roads because of close proprieties, more vehicles, more obstructions and more decisions that have to be made,” says 680News traffic reporter Darryl Dahmer.

There is also the issue of our Canadian climate which might slow down the roll out.

“It’s one thing in California, you’ve got perfect road conditions and you can do all these things. It’s another thing to be dealing with this north of Barrie in January,” explained Kee.

“We warn people about black ice, we see pools of water on the road. Would an autonomous vehicle be able to sense something and then be able to adjust a braking situation, which at times can vary depending on the condition.”

While there’s no timeline as to when these cars could take over our streets, Kee says a lot of it will come down to choice.

“It’s that switch you turn between you being in control of the vehicle and the machine being in control. Some people will embrace that future.”

Ontario officials say the province doesn’t plan to retrain or retest drivers based on new semi-autonomous features on vehicles, and won’t mandate driver education by manufacturers.

But provincial authorities should do just that, said Barrie Kirk of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence supports, who voiced concerns about companies such as Volvo, which has pledged to have a “crash proof” car on the market by 2020.

“The long term vision is that cars shouldn’t crash,” Volvo spokesman Jim Trainor told CNN earlier this year.

Statements like that give drivers a false sense of what cars that are hitting the market today are capable of doing, and that can put others in danger, said Kirk.

“It sets up public expectations that the technology is perfect,” he said.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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