Canadian Underwriter

Federal bill aims to address ‘regulatory challenges’ of disruptive vehicle technologies

September 22, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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Legislation under consideration by the House of Commons “would increase the flexibility” of federal law to address automated and connected technologies used in vehicles, a member of parliament suggested Wednesday.

“Shifts in the global technology landscape are placing a growing reliance on vehicle safety innovation while transforming business practices and consumer demands,” said Brenda Shanahan, Liberal MP for Châteauguay – Lacolle, Que.

“These emerging and disruptive technologies offer promising opportunities for economic safety and environmental benefits, as well as a number of regulatory challenges,” Shanahan added during debate on Bill S-2, which proposes to change the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

If passed into law, Bill S-2 would, among other things, extend – from one year to three – the length of time that interim orders could remain in effect, Shanahan suggested.

“An interim order allows a Canadian regulation that corresponds to a foreign regulation to be suspended or modified if there is a change by that foreign government,” Shanahan told the Commons Sept. 20.

“Currently, interim orders can only suspend or modify a Canadian regulation for one year, which does not reflect that some regulations could take longer to develop, particularly if they deal with a very technical subject matter,” Shanahan noted. “As such, Bill S-2 proposes to extend the period of an interim order to three years to reflect the typical length of time required to complete the full regulatory process for such a technical requirement.”

Bill S-2 was tabled May 11, 2016 by Senator Peter Harder and was the subject of committee hearings this past November. The Senate amended the bill before it passed third reading Feb. 2 in the upper house.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau tabled Bill S-2 for second reading Sept. 19.

“Emerging and disruptive technologies offer promising opportunities for economic safety and environmental benefits, as well as a number of regulatory challenges,” Shanahan said Sept. 20. “The challenges at the pace of change associated with these technologies, and how they are transforming the motor vehicle sector, is rapidly increasing while the regulatory process remains unchanged.”

New Democratic Party members debating Bill S-2 included Irene Mathyssen, MP for London-Fanshawe.

“In 2017, motor vehicles have become moving computerized islands with Wi-Fi access, Bluetooth connection for communication while driving, enhanced voice recognition, and options for entertainment and even shopping while on the road,” Mathyssen said. “They offer safety modifications and driver assistance options programmed into the vehicle to make our drives easier, safer, and more pleasant.”

Related: Vehicle defect correction bill debated in Commons

If passed into law, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act – which originally came into force in 1971 – would be changed to give the transport minister the power to “order a company to correct a defect or non-compliance in a vehicle or equipment.”

Bill S-2 would also give the transport minister the power “to order a manufacturer to conduct specific tests on its products, to ensure that it complies with the act,” said Alupa Clarke, Conservative MP for Beauport-Limoilou, Que. on Wednesday.

“Furthermore, the bill allows the minister to make exemptions to the regulations, if the exemption would, in the opinion of the minister, promote the development of a safety feature connected to a new technology,” he added.

Clarke suggested the opposition Conservatives will vote in favour of Bill S-2 but would like to see amendments made before it passes third reading.

“We support sending the bill to committee, but we would like some amendments to be made,” Clarke said.

The Conservatives are pushing for an amendment that would give the minister the power to order a company “to inform the person or dealership that obtained a vehicle from that company to ensure that any defect or non-compliance in a vehicle or equipment is corrected before the vehicle is offered for sale,” Clarke said.

Shanahan noted that the federal exemption order process – under which a specific vehicle model is exempt from a regulation – would also change if Bill S-2 is passed.

“Currently, exemption orders are only valid for one year and require approval from the Governor in Council,” Shanahan said. “An exemption is requested by the regulated body, and it is up to that entity to demonstrate that safety is not negatively affected. An example of this type of request would be if a manufacturer applied to not meet a rearview mirror regulation in order to install instead a rearview camera that performed the same function or improved on the existing function.”

Bill S-2 proposes to give the federal transport minister “the power to decide, based on the best evidence, and I would think common sense, whether it is in the interest of safety to grant the exemption,” Shanahan said. “The duration of the exemption would apply for three years to allow sufficient time to determine what technical regulatory requirements would be appropriate, and to allow time for the manufacturer to implement and use the proposed technology.

Such an exemption “would only apply on that model of vehicle,” but would be made public in order to let other manufacturers “be knowledgeable about options for advancing their own technologies,” Shanahan said.

Right now the Motor Vehicle Safety Act gives the federal government “limited enforcement tools to encourage compliance from companies,” Garneau said Sept. 19. With Bill S-2, the government is proposing to bring into place “an administrative monetary penalty regime that will help encourage compliance from companies as an efficient, effective and less costly alternative to criminal prosecution,” he added.