Washington, D.C., auto show highlights new vehicle technology policy

U.S. Senate, NHTSA discuss issues

The federal government and numerous organizations did not waste an opportunity of a major auto show to talk about new vehicle technologies and public policy. The U.S Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing, titled “Driving Automotive Innovation and Federal Policies,” as a precursor to the Washington, D.C., Auto Show.

Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., noted that the field hearing examined self-driving and other auto technologies, as well as issues on the horizon for lawmakers and regulators.

Witnesses included:

  • Randy Avent, Ph.D., president, Florida Polytechnic University
  • Tim Kentley-Klay, CEO and co-founder, Zoox Inc.
  • Mike Mansuetti, president, Robert Bosch North America, Robert Bosch LLC
  • Luke Schneider, president, Audi Mobility U.S.

In Thune’s opening remarks, he touched on the data-access issue, saying, “The AV START Act is just that – a start. As AVs become more widespread, there will be tough policy and societal questions that we must all work together to answer. AV START contains formal processes to start answering some of these questions, such as those relating to data and how law enforcement will interact with AVs. This committee will remain active and will build upon the strong foundation established by the AV START Act.”

ASA, along with the Ad-Hoc HAV (highly automated vehicles) Data Access Committee, representing a coalition of automotive stakeholders, support an amendment, offered by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., establishing an advisory committee at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that will review data access and cybersecurity issues relative to autonomous vehicles (AV). The amendment was approved and is part of the AV START Act. The START Act has not been addressed yet on the Senate floor.

The Data Access Committee submitted comments for the hearing (see sidebar) in support of the Inhofe language on data access and cybersecurity. Avent raised the issue of industries that will be directly impacted by AV, including auto repair. He titled this portion of his statement the “Disruption of Markets:”

Predictions are that many markets will be affected as driverless cars become more numerous in societies around the globe. The disruption has already started; autonomous cars will run the roads sooner than we expect. Joel Barbier points to numerous industries that are expected to change as a result. He states that “Business leaders in all industries can no longer take a wait-and-see approach. Companies must start being hyperaware by monitoring changes in their environment (which extends beyond what their competitors are doing); they must start making informed decisions and execute those decisions quickly to respond to the threat of autonomous vehicles. Further, company and government leaders must immediately address the impact on jobs and get serious about retraining efforts. Some of the companies he identifies are obvious, including auto manufacturing and auto repair. Others are less obvious. For instance, parking, law enforcement, insurance markets, real estate, hotels, media consumption, auto parts, lawyers and healthcare are just a few that will be impacted. And those are just some of the ones experts can think of. As with most disruptions, the biggest opportunities are ones that haven’t been discovered.”

NHTSA and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) also hosted a workshop on Vehicle Cybersecurity. With the recent, but brief, federal government shutdown, parts of the program had limited NHTSA participation. One of the panel discussions involved Serviceability of Secure Vehicles.

The first major autonomous vehicle legislation, the AV START Act, is stalled in the Senate with three holds. These holds seek to address several areas: privacy, insistence on a human presence in the AV and, finally, one senator wants assurance that AVs will be prohibited in their state. The underlying legislation is an effort to address the most basic issues, including preemption, research and vehicles on the road. It does not address key issues relative to independent repairers, i.e., data access, a path for independent repair with cybersecurity restrictions, etc. Inhofe’s amendment and efforts by U.S.

Congressman Buddy Carter, R-Ga., help assure that the aftermarket and other stakeholders are part of the discussion and future federal policies.

Although some House and Senate leaders have indicated there will be additional AV legislation in the future, opinions about when these vehicles will be in the marketplace vary widely. Unlike the changes in automotive manufacturing mandated by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and the concerns repairers faced with service information, industry changes likely will be much more dramatic.

At no time has association membership as part of the process of making well-informed business decisions been so vital. One of the most basic rules in Washington, D.C., is that if you are not at the table, you are likely on the menu.