Driving Offences

Sleeping Man Accused of Dangerous Driving in Self-Driving Vehicle

Written on behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP
tesla on the road

British Columbia resident, Leran Cai (“Cai”), is accused of speeding and dangerous driving in Alberta when he was pulled over by RCMP last summer.

On July 9, 2020, a commuter reported seeing a Tesla on Highway 2, south of Edmonton, travelling over 140 km/h with both the driver and passenger seat fully reclined. 

Sgt. Darrin Turnbull responded to the call and also observed the self-driving Tesla pass him by.  When police turned on their lights, the Tesla accelerated to 150 km/h.  Cai eventually pulled his vehicle over to the side of the road.

Cai was originally charged with speeding and given a 24-hour license suspension for driving while fatigued.  After police consulted with Crown counsel, Cai was later charged with dangerous driving under the Criminal Code of Canada

Cai’s driving history includes a driving while prohibited charge in March of 2019, a ticket for violating a driver’s licence restriction and a speeding ticket from February 2020. 

He is to appear in court on his dangerous driving charge on January 29, 2021 in Ponoka, Alberta.

WHAT IS AN AUTONOMOUS CAR?

An autonomous car is defined as a vehicle capable of sensing its environment and operating without human involvement.  An autonomous vehicle will be able to travel wherever a traditional car goes without requiring a human passenger to take control or even be present in the vehicle.

Self-driving cars are currently being tested across North America.  Carmakers and tech companies in Toronto, Montreal and Richmond, British Columbia are authorized to test autonomous vehicles on designated roads.  Some companies are testing fully autonomous vehicles, those without steering wheels or pedals, however the technology in these vehicles is still being refined and are likely at least a decade away from appearing on city streets.

There are currently 6 levels of driving automation defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers ranging from Level 0 (fully manual) to Level 5 (fully autonomous). 

Level 0:  No Automation – requires a human to perform all driving tasks.

Level 1:  Driver Assistance – features a single automated system (i.e. cruise control).

Level 2:  Partial Automation – the vehicle can perform steering and acceleration, however the human can take control at any time.

Level 3: Conditional Automation – the vehicle has environmental detection capabilities and can perform most driving tasks, however human override is still required.

Level 4:  High Automation – the vehicle performs all driving tasks, however human override is still an option. 

Level 5:  Full Automation – the vehicle performs all driving tasks under all conditions with no human attention or interaction required.

Autonomous cars rely on sensors, actuators, complex algorithms, machine learning systems and powerful processors to execute software.  These vehicles create and maintain a map of their surroundings and use radar sensors to monitor the position of nearby vehicles. 

Self-driving vehicles are equipped with video cameras to detect traffic lights, read road signs, track vehicles and look out for pedestrians.  Light detection and ranging sensors are used to bounce pulses of light off the car’s surroundings to measure distances, detect road edges and identify lane markings, and ultrasonic sensors located in the vehicle’s wheels detect curbs and other vehicles when parking.

The vehicle’s software processes all of the sensory information to plot a path and send instructions to the car’s actuator, which controls the acceleration, braking and steering of the vehicle.

OBSTACLES AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES FACE

One of the biggest obstacles facing self-driving vehicles is bad weather.  Conditions such as rain, sleet, ice and snow are difficult enough for real live drivers to handle.  Poor visibility that often accompanies bad weather is another challenge as self-driving technology relies upon being able to detect signs and road markings, which can be difficult in poor weather.

Another obstacle these technologically advanced vehicles face is the approval by regulators across North America.  This is going to be largely dependent upon proving the safety of the vehicles, which is still questionable.

Currently, provincial motor vehicle regulations across Canada do not address self-driving vehicles with the exception of Saskatchewan which has recently amended their Traffic Safety Act to include automated driving systems.  This amendment will allow Saskatchewan Government Insurance to regulate all autonomous vehicles as technological advancements continue.

According to vice president of Saskatchewan Government Insurance, J.P. Cullen:

As it stands, we’re focused on that safety aspect and making it clear drivers are still responsible for being in control of the vehicle.

We will continue to follow the developments with respect to the driving offences charges against Mr. Cai and the latest information surrounding autonomous driving regulations in Canada and will report on them in this blog.

If you have been charged with dangerous driving or other driving related offences, please contact the knowledgeable criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.