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By Blair Qualey

The provincial government recently made changes to the Motor Vehicle Act that restricts drivers from operating fully automated self-driving vehicles –and prohibits the use of features that cause a vehicle to operate as a Level 3 or higher automated vehicle, with accompanying penalties of up to $2,000 and six months in jail.To understand what this means, here is a brief breakdown of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Levels of Driving Automation and what they mean:

Level 0: Full human control, no automated assistance or control systems.

Level 1: Driver assistance systems support specific tasks like steering or acceleration, but the human driver is responsible for overall monitoring and control.

Level 2: Partial automation allows the vehicle to control steering and acceleration/deceleration under certain conditions, such as highway driving, but the human driver must stay engaged and be ready to take over at any time.

Level 3: The vehicle can manage all aspects of driving in certain conditions and environments, allowing the human driver to disengage from actively monitoring the road. However, the human driver must be ready to take over when prompted by the system.

Level 4: High automation, vehicle operates autonomously within defined conditions, but human intervention is still required in certain situations.

Level 5: Full automation, vehicle can drive in all conditions without human intervention.

With safety being the number one concern, these amendments reflect the desire to ensure the well-being of all drivers and passengers.

Bob Porter, president of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, told CBC that he supports the province’s decision to ban fully automated cars, adding that public safety is paramount.
As an association that represents New Car Dealers, we too are very aware that advancements in technology, while exciting for enthusiasts and businesses, must always prioritize the well-being, health, and safety of the human beings on our roads. And while there’s no denying that the prospect of fully automated vehicles holds immense potential, it’s important to acknowledge that technological advancements must reach a certain level of maturity before they can be fully embraced by the public.

Despite the promising benefits that self-driving technology offers, there are more than a few hurdles that must be overcome before it can be considered safe for the general public. High profile accidents have occurred due to malfunctions in self-driving vehicles. And even beyond the driver’s seat, there are many outside factors, such as regulatory frameworks, infrastructure requirements, and ethical considerations to address before self-driving vehicles can be welcomed with confidence and considered safe enough for anyone to use.

Beyond the realm of road safety, the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles could reshape civil engineering, city planning, transportation systems, and even employment opportunities. Rideshare programs, overland shipping, package and food delivery, the list goes on. As self-driving technology evolves, so must the conversations surrounding it.

Addressing public perception and trust in self-driving technology will be crucial for its widespread acceptance.

The future of self-driving cars appears inevitable, but collaboration between industry stakeholders, policymakers, and the public will be essential in traversing the path ahead. While the road towards fully autonomous vehicles is full of bumps, twists, and turns, it might just be a trip worth taking for the promise of enhanced road safety and efficiency.


Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. You can reach him at [email protected].