Self-Driving Cars: Taking The Wheel Out Of Your Hands

Article by Eric W.D. Boate and Cassandra Khatchikian

Self-driving cars are no longer something we can only imagine in futuristic movies. Taken right out of James Bond, Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport is already capable of being controlled via smartphone like a remote-controlled car. Subaru’s EyeSight system has the ability to independently adjust cruise control to maintain a safe distance from the car ahead. Tesla’s vehicles are equipped with a system, aptly named “autopilot”, that allows for near-full control of the vehicle during highway driving using radars and cameras to stay in the middle of a lane, transition from one highway to another, and even automatically change lanes without requiring driver input. The technology is already here, and if your car is relatively new, it’s probably already in your own driveway to some degree…

What is an autonomous vehicle, exactly?

The government of Ontario defines autonomous vehicle as a “driverless or self-driving vehicles that are capable of detecting the surrounding environment using artificial intelligence, sensors and global positioning system coordinates”.1

However, the distinction between an autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle is an important one, and will be increasingly more at the forefront of discussion. Whereas autonomous vehicles are, as above, fully capable of being operated without human input, semi-autonomous vehicles are those that require a driver for most normal applications of operation. These semi-autonomous vehicles have functions that allow the vehicle to take over some controls of the vehicle to attempt to avoid or lessen the severity of motor vehicle accidents, such as emergency breaking, adaptive cruise control and lane avoidance signaling.

With new technology comes new responsibility to keep our roads safe

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, on January 1, 2016, a new program was launched to allow auto manufacturers, under specific regulations, to begin testing on self-driving cars, or autonomous vehicles. Interestingly, Ontario is the first province in Canada to allow road tests of autonomous vehicles.

driverless or self-driving vehicles are capable of detecting the surrounding environment using artificial intelligence…

The implementation of the pilot project has strict rules and restrictions to ensure safety for those involved with the testing phase of these cars. For example, the pilot is restricted to using these vehicles only for testing purposes, only vehicles manufactured and equipped by approved applicants are permitted and the driver must remain in the driver’s seat of the vehicle at all times and monitor the vehicle’s operation, to name but a few. The full list of the parameters and rules related to the pilot project is set out in Regulation 306/15 Pilot Project-Automated Vehicles, a regulation under the Highway Traffic Act.2

Turning the tables on liability

The introduction of this new groundbreaking technology comes with legal uncertainties. Litigation specialists can’t help but wonder how courts will determine liability when self-driving cars are involved in motor vehicle accidents.

This issue has already come up several times worldwide. The first known death associated with autonomous vehicle function occurred recently in Florida, USA on May 7, 2016, where a man was killed in a motor vehicle accident while driving a Tesla Model S with ‘autopilot’ engaged.

Tesla issued a statement following the tragedy and indicated that though the autopilot is getting better all the time, it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert while the car is in use.3 In fact, when the self-driving mode in Tesla vehicles is activated, there is an acknowledgment box that specifically warns drivers that the mode should be used as an assist feature only and that the driver—s hands should still remain on the steering wheel.

Venturing into unknown territory with liability

The golden question remains: If a motor vehicle accident involving an autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle occurs, who will be held liable, the car or the driver?

The answer will likely depend on the specific facts of the incident. For example, these could include: Whether the autonomous hardware of software malfunctioned, whether the owner properly maintained the vehicle, or whether the driver correctly operated the vehicle while the autonomic functions were enabled.

With the introduction of these autonomic and semi-autonomic vehicles, the courts will be assigned the new task of determining liability. The determination of liability gets complicated when considering that, no automobile manufacturer creates all components of its vehicles “in-house”: the reality is that the hardware and software for these autonomous functions are created by numerous parties.

Determining fault will likely require a determination of what specifically caused the incident. Various parties may be on the hook when a motor vehicle accident involving an autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle occurs. For example, these parties may include the software development team, the manufacturer of the camera sensors, and the owner and operator of the vehicle. With that said, one thing is certain: the number of party litigants is going to increase in these cases.

To date, there is no case law on this topic that we can look to for guidance; however, it will be interesting to see how the courts will treat the introduction of this new technology in the determination of liability for motor vehicle accidents.

In Ontario, the courts look to the common law for direction in determining liability in litigation involving motor vehicle accidents. Now, with the impending introduction of autonomous vehicles, it will be interesting to see how product liability will be incorporated into the determination of liability by the courts. Courts similarly look to the common law for authority in determining product liability, but can also look to provincial legislation governing consumer goods, such as the Ontario Sale of Goods Act.4

Only time will tell if this new technology will, in fact, lead to fewer motor vehicle accidents, thus reducing the associated costs for insurance companies.

It is not yet known how auto insurance will be affected by autonomous vehicles. With the promise of making driving safer, should insurance premiums be reduced for those who drive safer vehicles? This will of course beg the question as to whether autonomous functions actually make vehicles safer.

Only time will tell if this new technology will, in fact, lead to fewer motor vehicle accidents, thus reducing the associated costs for insurance companies. It is almost certain that auto insurance policies will require an update to keep pace with the burgeoning proliferation of autonomic and semi-autonomic vehicles.

Costs aside, the interplay between auto insurance policies and commercial general liability policies will certainly need to be addressed, at least from the product liability perspective, since many commercial general liability policies, including those which cover software or camera manufacturers, specifically exclude coverage for liability arising out of the ownership or use of an automobile. This leads to the question that if an autonomous vehicle’s software or camera fails, which, in turn, leads to a crash, could the software or camera manufacturer’s insurer deny coverage based on the fact that liability arouse out of the use of an automobile? Under the current wording of insurance policies, this is a possibility.

While it is clear from the above that there are many uncertainties with respect to autonomous vehicles, at least from a legal perceptive, our lawyers will continue to keep abreast of liability issues surrounding automatous vehicles, so as to keep our clients updated to this ever changing area of transportation law.

Footnotes

1. Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Ontario First to Test Automated Vehicles on Roads in Canada, Province Supports Innovation in Transportation Technology, 2015(Ontario, Ministry of Transportation, 2015)

2. O. Reg. 306/15: Pilot Project – Automated Vehicles, under the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, C. H.8

3. The Tesla Team, A Tragic Loss, June 30, 2016,

4. Sale of Goods Act, RSO. 1990, c.S.1.

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.

This year’s 10 most frequently stolen vehicles in IBC’s Western and Pacific region are:

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‘Ice bombs’ on Metro Vancouver bridges damage at least 40 vehicles

VANCOUVER _ British Columbia’s transportation minister says more needs to be done to prevent chunks of ice falling from Metro Vancouver’s bridges and damaging vehicles.

A winter storm brought more than five centimetres of snow to the region Monday and there were numerous reports of snow and ice falling from bridges, leaving vehicles with cracked windshields and dented roofs.

“We’re very thankful that no one was hurt during these incidents, but we’re not happy at all that vehicles were damaged by falling snow and ice,” said Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

He said the Insurance Corporation of B.C. has received 40 claims from people whose vehicles were damaged. Ten of the claims came from drivers who were travelling over the Port Mann Bridge between Surrey and Coquitlam, and 30 from motorists going over the Alex Fraser Bridge, which spans New Westminster and Delta.

Stone said the province will pay the insurance deductibles for all of the damaged vehicles, but it’s too soon to say what the cost will be because more drivers could still come forward.

Similar incidents were reported on the Port Mann Bridge in 2012, shortly after it opened. Devices were later installed on each of the bridge’s 288 cables to drop down and clear snow and slush in wintry weather. They were in operation Monday.

A de-icing spray was used to try and keep snow and ice off the towers and cross beam of the Alex Fraser Bridge, but staff are now investigating what else should have been done.

“I want to say very clearly to the people of British Columbia that we can and we will do better,” Stone said.

Another snow storm is scheduled to hit the region Thursday. Stone said, among other things, monitoring is being increased on the bridges.

CP3

Sport Utility Vehicles Still the Darlings of Auto Thieves

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) today unveiled its annual list of the ten vehicles most frequently stolen in Quebec. Once again, luxury sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are the first choice among criminals.

With the exception of BMW’s 335xi–which is considered a luxury car—IBC’s Top 10 clearly demonstrates that for thieves, the appeal of sport utility vehicles shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, all the cars that fell into their clutches in 2015 were SUVs.

If overall rates for auto theft are continuing to decline in Quebec, they remain a costly problem for insurers. Between 2013 and 2015, for example, the frequency of thefts dropped by 25%, but the average cost for these types of claims actually rose by 15%, from $15,428to $17,755. “Today’s thefts are different from what they were several years ago. Thieves no longer ‘borrow’ cars to go for a spin; they are now acting as part of organized networks, and vehicles are often stolen for resale abroad,” says Anne Morin, Supervisor, Communications and Public Affairs at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

In addition to the export market, the vehicles are stolen for resale locally to people who are unaware that they are in fact victims of fraud. The vehicles are also dismantled and sold for parts or used to commit other crimes.

The top 10 in Quebec

This year, the ten most frequently stolen vehicles in Quebec were:

  1. TOYOTA 4RUNNER 4P 2015 TRUCK/VAN
  2. TOYOTA 4RUNNER 4P 2014 TRUCK/VAN
  3. LEXUS RX350 4P 2013 TRUCK/VAN
  4. LEXUS RX350 4P 2015 TRUCK/VAN
  5. TOYOTA FJ CRUISER 4P 2011 TRUCK/VAN
  6. INFINITI QX60 4P 2015 TRUCK/VAN
  7. BMW 335xi 2P 2008
  8. TOYOTA 4RUNNER 4P 2013 TRUCK/VAN
  9. LEXUS RX350 4P 2014 TRUCK/VAN
  10. LEXUS IS 300 4P 2002

Preventing Auto Theft

The IBC’s Top 10 indicates that, in Quebec, nine out of ten stolen vehicles were built after 2007—in other words, after the installation of anti-theft devices became mandatory under the law. Although these systems discourage some thieves, they are not infallible. So it is important to be vigilant and take certain precautions to discourage thieves from targeting your vehicle.

Protect your vehicle by following these tips:

  • Never leave the engine running while the vehicle is unattended.
  • Park in a well-lit area.
  • After parking, always shut the windows and lock the doors.
  • Place valuables and any packages in the trunk out of sight.
  • Park your vehicle in your garage overnight.
  • Do not leave personal documents in the glove compartment.
  • Take the registration and proof of insurance with you when leaving the car.

About the Insurance Bureau of Canada

The Insurance Bureau of Canada is the industry association that represents the majority of insurers across the country. It offers consumers a variety of services to help them stay informed and provides assistance with the purchase of home and automobile insurance as well as in the event of disasters.

* The Top-10 list for 2016 is a compilation of the 2015 statistics from Quebec auto insurers.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

Scaffold company sues Regina refinery over explosion and fire in 2011

By CJME

THE CANADIAN PRESS

REGINA _ A scaffolding company is suing Consumers’ Co-operative Refineries Ltd. for negligence over an explosion and fire that happened in 2011.

Skyway Canada Ltd. alleges it lost more than $2.7 million in equipment in the explosion, along with associated business losses.

A report from the City of Regina’s fire inspectors found the explosion was caused by corrosion in pipes.

The lawsuit accuses Co-op Refineries of negligence for failing to maintain the pipelines in a safe condition and breach of duty, claiming it was an implied term of the agreement between Skyway and the refinery that the premises would be reasonably safe.

In its statement of defence, the refinery says its agreement with Skyway said, either expressly or implicitly, that there would be no specific duty of care outside the contract.

The refinery says that deal also made Skyway responsible for loss or use of its property whether there was negligence or not and that Skyway would insure against loss or damage to its equipment.

The refinery says in its statement that Skyway had given it proof that there was insurance on the equipment.

The refinery also denied it was careless in any way, that it failed to maintain the pipes in a safe manner, that it failed to properly monitor the corrosion of pipes, that any of its standards, policies, program or inspection plans with respect to piping were deficient or that any of its inspections or analysis with respect to piping were conducted in a negligent manner.

None of the claims have been proven in court.

In 2013, after the cause of the explosion was found, the refinery was charged with five counts under Occupational Health and Safety regulations.

In 2015, the refinery pleaded guilty to failing to ensure work was properly supervised and the other four charges were withdrawn. The refinery paid a fine of $280,000.

CP3

Tips to get your Christmas tree home safely without damaging your vehicle

Tips to get your Christmas tree home safely without damaging your vehicle

BY JAYLEEN R. HEFT, PROPERTYCASUALTY360.COM

Strapping a Christmas tree to your vehicle can be tricky, and many of us have witnessed some downright dangerous attempts during the holiday season. Not only is safety important, but an auto insurance claim because of scratched paint or a traffic accident may put a damper on your holiday spirit.

Each year, 30 million to 35 million American families celebrate the holiday season with a fresh, farm-grown Christmas tree, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. One of the main challenges many of these households face is getting their perfect tree home without extra expense, damage to their automobile, physical injury, or leaving unsafe debris on the roadway.

Avoid auto insurance claims and ensure the safety of your passengers, other motorists and pedestrians by following these 9 tips.

1. Take measurements

Make sure you know the size of the tree you can accommodate. Before you leave the house, measure the height of the room where you plan to display the tree; it should be at least a foot taller than the tree you buy. Know the width of the space to help you gauge how much tree you can handle.

Also, make sure to measure your vehicle’s interior storage area and roof. It doesn’t do much good to know you can fit an 8-foot tree in the living room but can only handle a six footer on your Toyota.

2. Dress properly

Wear jeans, a long-sleeve shirt, jacket or sweatshirt, and don’t forget work gloves. The branches, needles and other sharp tree parts can poke you in all the wrong places. And wear comfortable shoes with nonslip soles.

3. Items to take with you

You’ll need a tarp, old blanket or heavy plastic sheets to protect your vehicle. Also, be sure to grab the right materials to secure the tree: good rope, twine, ratchet-style tie downs or bungee cords.

Many lots won’t tie the tree on the car for you to avoid an insurance nightmare for the lot if an employee damages your vehicle, so bring a friend to help carry and secure your tree.

4. Wrap the tree

Most trees are sold in netting, which you should leave on so that the branches stay tightly bundled and so that carrying the tree is more manageable.

No net? Shake the tree to rid it of loose needles, then wrap it in a blanket or tarp.

5. Cover your vehicle 

To avoid paint scratches, lay your tarp or blanket out on the roof of your vehicle before placing the tree up there. Spread it out to cover the entire top to also protect from pieces that fly off while driving down the road.

If you’re hauling the tree in the back of your SUV or minivan, lay down a blanket or tarp to protect your interior from sap stains.

6. Pick the perfect tree (for hauling)

Yes, that 10-foot Evergreen looks amazing on the lot, and it may even fit inside your living room with a bit of trimming, but will it fit on the roof of your SUV? Can you lift it once you get it home?

Be sure that you’re picking out a tree that is not only free of bare spots, but will also realistically fit on top or inside of your vehicle without extending too far past the bumper.

7. Position the tree in the right direction

To keep your tree stable and avoid wind damage when driving, center the tree and arrange it so that the stump end faces the front of your vehicle. The best way to transport a tree is to cover it completely to keep the wind from drying it out, so if you have a second tarp handy, roll the tree up in it before hauling it onto the roof.

8. Secure the tree to your vehicle

If you have a roof rack, secure the tree from where the branches start to its tip, with bungee cords or rope.

It’s not recommended that you put your tree on your car’s roof unless it has a roof rack. However, if you do so, first open all their car doors—not the windows—then tie the tree snugly to the roof with rope.

For trees that extend more beyond your car’s bumpers, tie a reflective flag to the end to alert 
other drivers.

If you’re hauling your tree in a pickup truck, there could be hot spots in the truck bed—from the exhaust pipe, for example. This can damage the tree’s needles, so put something under it, such as an old blanket.

Before you leave the lot, make sure to give the tree a firm tug to ensure that it’s not going anywhere. If it budges, you probably need to pull the ropes tighter.

9. Take it slow and easy

Once you get on road, take it slow and put on your hazard lights. Avoid the highway, especially if you’re not used to hauling heavy objects on your car’s roof. Highways are not your friend when you have a potential six foot flying, green missile on top of your vehicle.

Remember, roof cargo affects your vehicle’s center of gravity and emergency handling.

Photo Credit: AAA

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