Modes of Transportation

In an Autonomous Vehicle

The term "autonomous vehicle" refers to a road vehicle equipped with an automated driving system that can operate a vehicle at driving automation level 3, 4 or 5, as defined by SAE International Standard J3016.

In Brief

Although they are often used interchangeably, the terms "automated vehicle" and "autonomous vehicle" are not synonymous. An automated vehicle can be driven normally, with or without the intervention of a driver under certain conditions, whereas an autonomous vehicle can be operated without human monitoring or intervention. They are also known as "driverless vehicles" or "intelligent vehicles".

There are also "connected vehicles," which communicate with the driver, and other vehicles and other connected infrastructures using various technologies.

The arrival of autonomous vehicles and connected vehicles on our roads may have a positive impact, notably as regards the road safety record, traffic congestion and the transportation of goods, to name only those.

In Québec

Amendments to the Highway Safety Code in 2018 not only introduced a definition of what constitutes an “autonomous vehicle”, but also opened the door to the implementation of pilot projects to test new modes of transportation and to regulate the operation of this new type of vehicle.

Testing an autonomous vehicle on a public road open to road vehicle traffic is only authorized when it is part of a pilot project. Only the Minister of Transport can authorize pilot projects to test new modes of transportation that make use of technological innovations while ensuring that the safety of road users is not compromised. Pilot projects usually last for 5 years, but can be extended by up to 2 years.

Putting an autonomous vehicle into operation on a public road is therefore prohibited, unless the vehicle is being tested as part of a pilot project. The only exception applies to vehicles with a driving automation level of 3, as defined by SAE International Standard J3016. The sale of such vehicles is authorized in Canada. Consult the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAQ) Classification (PDF, 95.9 ko).

With a view to properly overseeing the arrival of autonomous vehicles in Québec and their safe use on public roads, the Government has set up a joint committee of experts from the Ministère des Transports and the SAAQ. This committee is in charge of analyzing all applications to test autonomous vehicles in Québec.

If you have any questions about the testing of autonomous vehicles in Québec, or if you would like to know more about how to proceed in order to submit a test project application, please send an email to This link opens your default email software..


Most of the leading auto manufacturers and high-tech companies have committed to designing vehicles equipped with an automated driving system in the near future. Automated driving systems make it possible for the driver to completely relinquish control of the vehicle.

Since 2016, the Province of Ontario has been leading a pilot project to test automated vehicles on its roads.

Last update: July 21, 2021