Congressional Briefing: Mobilitytalks 2.0 “It Depends On What the Regulators Do”

February 9, 2017

Mobilitytalks 2.0 “It Depends On What the Regulators Do”

Kennedy Caucus Room | Russell Senate Office Building | 12:00-1:30 PM

A Congressional briefing on the topics of how regulators will interact with the future of autonomous vehicles was convened as part of the Washington Auto Show. It was set up as a panel where the moderator questioned the panelists and discussed the future of connected and autonomous technologies where leading thinkers, researchers, lawmakers and regulators from around the world were featured.

The bottom line from the briefing was that while standards for autonomous vehicles are necessary for safety and security, as a country we are far from being able to develop them. Currently industry needs to focus on consumer trust while the government should cautiously monitor the situation leaving  industry enough room to continue developing the technology. Meanwhile government can continue to play its role in encouraging technology advancement to keep America competitive globally.


  • David Shepardson (moderator), Reuters
  • Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, US House of Representatives
  • John Maddox, American Center for Mobility
  • Gary Shapiro, Consumer Technology Association
  • Ian Yarnold, UK Department of Transport
  • Harry Lightsey, General Motors (GM)

Q1: Where should the new Administration go in regards to guidance?

A1 Shapiro: Using the same system that was used to certify airplanes is not going to work here. America is a consumption society and we demand new things quickly. Technology can keep up, but old guidance creation cannot. There is a national role to play in this space and other counties are already trying to take the lead in this area.

A1 Rep. Dingell: Technology is changing so quickly and rulemaking cannot keep up. This is not just a problem for manufactures, but other transportation companies are effected as well. President Trump is very interested in this issue. Congress needs to be on top of it, and Congress also needs input from stakeholders.

A1 Lightsey: GM supports the NHTSA guidance that came out and thinks it is a very good structure for future guidance. It recognizes that there is an important role for states to play. He also suggests that with this issue, public trust is extremely important.

A1 Yarnold:  We need harmonized standards and single specifications worldwide and that the sooner we can work between countries, the more quickly we can progress.

A1 Maddox: Guidance is the only way to go at this point, the government can’t start to regulate yet. Regulations need to be done carefully, slowly, and thoughtfully.

Q2: Data sharing?

A2 Maddox: In this industry, there is a strong competitive nature, which is a good thing. We need to be realistic with what we share.

A2 Rep. Dingell: There are 10 Department of Transportation (DOT) centers nationally called “Communities of Interest” or COIs, and their number one priority is that the consumers are always safe. We need to talk also about privacy and what will be done with the black boxes in the car collecting all this information. The industry is transforming and with that comes a lot of new issues that previously we never encountered.

A2 Lightsey: It will be a while before we have the data to develop a standard, but the auto industry has already agreed to a set of data privacy principles that all major players signed onto two years ago.

Q3: Certifications for semi-self-driving cars?

A3 Maddox: Self-certification is the right way to do things at this point.

A3 Yarnold: Government’s role is to make sure it makes standards and that government is the protector. NHTSA’s framework sets the premise for this discussion.

A3 Shapiro: This is a temporary problem until we figure out a solution to completely autonomous cars. Additionally, Shapiro likes NHTSA’s approach, offering broad guidance and leaving many open-ended. Regulations need to be balanced with the free market system.

A3 Lightsey: Lightsey somewhat disagreed, saying that policy-wise, we need to solve for where we are now, not for the technology that doesn’t yet exist. The right people to do this are those who make the technology and understand it.

A3 Rep. Dingell: Congressman Dingell says there is a valid role for government as we develop the future technology. She doesn’t really believe we will ever be a fully autonomous society with cars, as there are always some unanticipated roadblocks (off-roading, mountains, weather, etc.). Maybe in urban areas, but rural areas are much harder for the technology to be fully implemented.

A3 Maddox: The implications of a world with autonomous vehicles 20-40 years from now will reach far beyond automobile makers. It will effect parking garage owners (if cars drive people to work and then drive themselves back to the house, parking garage businesses will fail), taxis, organ donations (if cars are safer, organ banks will be emptier). There needs to be a greater focus on all areas of society this will effect.

Q4: Will Congress only act after a tragedy?

A4 Rep. Dingell: The reality is that there will be tragedies, as with all aspects of life. We are trying to look ahead and a focus on how this technology can help keep America competitive will drive action in Congress.

A4 Maddox: Government needs to encourage the deployment of this technology.

A4 Yarnold: The United Kingdom is taking a much more proactive approach than the US. If the focus is on “there is going to be an accident” becomes embedded in society, people will shy away from the technology.

A4 Lightsey: V-2-V technology is superior to single vehicle technology because while cars are limited to their field of vision, V-2-V technology allows cars to see what’s around the next corner or over the hill.

V-2-V can also help solve the huge congestion problem on our roadways

ASME Insider Home Latest News Key Issues ASME Members Outreach Washington Insider Contact Us