Knowledge CentreTechnical ProjectsMicro-Utility Devices in Public Rights-of-Way: Considerations for Road Authorities

Micro-Utility Devices in Public Rights-of-Way: Considerations for Road Authorities


Micro-utility devices (MUDs; also called surface robots, sidewalk robots, or public-area mobile robots) are small, automated or remotely operated motorized vehicles owned by private companies, governments (e.g. municipalities) or individuals. They are used in areas where they may encounter members of the public such as on roads, sidewalks and pathways, and on private property including institutional campuses. Their possible use cases include goods delivery, infrastructure maintenance (e.g. snow removal), personal assistance, and scanning or surveillance.

Possible benefits of MUDs include operating cost savings, increased service levels, and reduced environmental impacts. Possible risks and challenges of MUDs include impacts on pedestrian and road user safety, possible obstructions of rights-of-way, and the need for legal/regulatory frameworks and public acceptance.

MUDs are an emerging technology and Canadian governments are generally unprepared for their deployment. Road authorities lack an effective framework of best practices, guidelines and regulations to help them address MUDs, and could be unaware of the potential benefits that may be foregone by simply prohibiting MUDs.


This project will help Canadian road authorities understand the risks and benefits of MUDs, and facilitate their safe use where desired. Its scope is limited to MUDs operating in public rights-of-way where they may interact with unprotected or uninformed individuals. It will:

  • Provide an overview of MUD technologies including their state of readiness (e.g. performance in cold climates and snowy conditions), digital infrastructure needs, and commercialization timeline.
  • Describe the most likely public and private MUD use cases over the medium term (e.g. 10 to 15 years) in Canada, and for each use case identify possible scales of deployment, the nature of supportive services (e.g. data, traffic management) or infrastructure required for demonstration and operation, possible benefits, and possible risks (e.g. pedestrian and cyclist safety, equity, workforce development, public acceptance). 
  • Summarize international MUD trial findings and existing or planned MUD guidance and standards.
  • Summarize the interests and concerns of Canadian road authorities and stakeholders, the roles and responsibilities of federal, provincial and municipal orders of government, and the applicable Canadian laws, by-laws, regulations and policies.
  • Identify considerations around MUD verification/certification (e.g. relating to safety standards, insurance and licensing requirements, vehicle identification, data reporting/trip logging) and MUD safety regulation and enforcement (e.g. mechanisms, challenges and resource requirements).
  • Identify gaps in knowledge or understanding that could be addressed through additional research and testing, guidance for MUD trials that focus on road user safety, privacy and security, and other recommended actions to develop needed guidance, tools and resources.

Ultimately, the project will help Canadian road authorities develop policies and regulations in advance of a broad commercial rollout of MUDs, and thus support the goal of integrating MUDs devices safely into urban, rural and northern environments.

Focus Area:Technology

Project Summary

In Development
Last Updated:
July, 2024
Responsible Council / Committee:
Technology Council / Connected & Automated Vehicles Integrated Committee
Expected Duration:
18 months
Total Funding Estimate:
Staff Contact:Geoff Noxon