No, self-driving cars are not legal in British Columbia. There are no legislated standards for self-driving vehicle operation on our roads. British Columbia is therefore lacking in regulation, certification, and insurance for self-driving cars.

State Run Auto Insurance- ICBC

This is, in part, because we have a state controlled auto insurer, ICBC. Increasing single vehicle insurance premiums is directly related to government revenue. Therefore, no government incentive to develop a self-driving infrastructure currently exists.

In fact, 2018/2019 changes to auto insurance focus on human drivers and not vehicles. This is inconsistent with the future of the driver-less car as driver.

A study by the International Transport Forum (ITF) in 2015 found a 65% reduction in the number of vehicles needed to maintain mobility in Lisbon, Portugal by using automated minibuses. Single occupancy shared vehicles also reduced 23 per cent of the vehicles needed on the roads.

Self-driving Shuttles in Vancouver and Surrey

The cities of Vancouver and Surrey joined to provide a proposal to the Federal government for funding of automated corridors. The $50 million from the Smart Cities Challenge would be used to develop an Electric Autonomous Shuttle system. What is evident is the current Provincial NDP government lags behind Vancouver and Surrey in automated vehicle preparation. As stated in the Smart Cities proposal:

From a legislative perspective, there are requirements to comply with the BC Motor Vehicle Act, which includes standards on traffic control devices (e.g., signs, signals, and pavement markings) and local bylaws. There are also Federal (e.g., Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA)) and Provincial (e.g., Transportation Act) regulations that govern the types of vehicles that can be used on public roadways and their associated safety features.

This would create new autonomous vehicle law for Electric Autonomous Shuttles. This, however, is not much more than a non-railed train system, which Vancouver already has. A real change to individual self-driving cars is not forthcoming in this proposal.

Vancouver Autonomous shuttle route

Having electric autonomous shuttles at Seaside Bypass route along Lamey’s Mill Road, Charleson Park, Moberly Road, Commodore Road, and West 1st Avenue would do little to solve problems in downtown Vancouver. This is still an excellent forward thinking plan for tourists and the local residents.

Whether beyond 2019 self driving cars are legal will depend on the political will. In order to move into the automated era of transportation we need to re-evaluate the utility of a state run auto monopoly.


    • Currently, all drivers in BC must be prepared to take control of a vehicle that is in autonomous mode. Owners and drivers are responsible for controlling a vehicle in lane assist mode.

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