Recent comments from Joe Hargrave, the Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), raises some important questions for Tesla owners and autonomous driving in the province.
While presenting the annual reports for SGI last week alongside Hargrave, SGI president and CEO Andrew Cartmell spoke about the legality of autonomous vehicles.
“We’ve begun to work with the government on putting regulations and legislation in place so that as autonomous vehicles become more prevalent on our roads that there’ll be the legislation to support the use of autonomous vehicles. In fact, we’ve done some work already, but more in the agricultural sector, because there was a Saskatchewan based company that had designed autonomous agricultural vehicles and we needed to look at the regulations on those vehicles.“
As expected, the conversation eventually steered towards Tesla, and its driver-assist feature Autopilot. When asked if the system is legal to use on the roads of Saskatchewan, the Minister had a clear cut response.
“It’s a pretty easy answer. That’s definitely, definitely not allowed.“
While the response is certainly alarming, it appears as though the Honourable Minister is mistaken as to what Autopilot is, and what it is capable of. It is likely the case that the Minister was talking more about autonomous driving in terms of fully driverless vehicles, something which Autopilot is not yet capable of.
Related: Manitoba brings forward legislation to allow autonomous vehicle testing on provincial roads
Tesla’s Autopilot system allows for the vehicle to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane, but the driver must continue to pay attention and be prepared to take control of the vehicle at any time.
When Tesla first released Smart Summon, one owner’s irresponsible use of the feature in a crowded parking lot in Richmond, B.C., drew a response from ICBC, the provincial insurance company.
“The driver is responsible for the operation of the vehicle, including when driver assistance is activated. In the recent incident in Richmond, thankfully, there was no accident. Had an accident occurred, the vehicle owner’s insurance may not have provided coverage.”
Based on that response, Tesla’s driver-assist feature Autopilot would be legal to use on B.C. roads so long as there is a driver behind the wheel.
Drive Tesla has reached out to the Minister’s Office for clarification. A reply has not been received at the time of publication. We will update this article when one is received.
Update – July 13, 1:19pm PST: We have received clarification from Michael Kline, Acting Director, Carrier & Vehicle Safety Services. As suspected, the use of Autopilot in Saskatchewan is not illegal, so long as the system is used as Tesla tells you to – that is to always pay attention and be able to take control of the vehicle at any time.
The official response is copied below.
The use of ADAS in vehicles is not prohibited in Saskatchewan so long as the vehicle meets federal manufacturing standards (Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) established by Transport Canada for public road use. The system must be used in accordance with the vehicle manufacturers operating instructions and the operator must remain in control of the vehicle at all times.
More information regarding the use of these types of systems can be found on Transport Canada’s website: https://tc.canada.ca/en/road-transportation/innovative-technologies/automated-connected-vehicles/automated-connected-vehicle-safety-what-you-need-know
I hope this helps clarify Saskatchewan’s position on the use of ADAS in vehicles, but if you had any follow up questions, please let me know and I’d be happy to help.
Thank you, and have a great day.
Acting Director, Carrier & Vehicle Safety Services
Saskatchewan Government Insurance
h/t [News Optimist]