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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and Ranking Member of the Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight, and Ports Subcommittee, helped lead today’s subcommittee’s hearing on autonomous vehicle technology and the future of automotive innovation.

More information on the hearing:

The hearing explored how automotive innovation will influence the future of vehicle safety, mobility, and technology in a global economy. Witnesses included:

-        Mr. John Bozzella, President & CEO, Alliance for Automotive Innovation

-        Ms. Ann Wilson, Senior Vice President, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association

-        Ms. Rana Abbas Taylor, Mothers Against Drunk Driving

-        Mr. Reuben Sarkar, President & CEO, American Center for Mobility

Transcript of Senator Fischer’s Q&A:

Senator Fischer: Ms. Taylor, I want to again thank you for being here today to tell your story. I appreciate hearing your testimony. You mentioned that technology exists to identify driver impairment and stop a vehicle. Can you elaborate on that technology for the subcommittee. 

Ms. Taylor: Yes, there are numerous technologies that are available in what we have come across which was submitted in the RFI. For record there are 241 available ones. Much of this technology is passive technology. Driver monitoring, driving monitoring. I am not a tech expert, please note that I am here on specifically on behalf of my family and the families of those who have been victims and are working on this. What I do know is technology is available, it is passive, it is as simple as even a code switch to get it into vehicles. Yet, we are still holding on. 

I hope that from my perspective that committee members can understand from what I hear that it’s not time yet or I hear that more research needs to be done. I just hear that more lives need to be lost before we can do this. And that’s not okay and not enough for me and I know it’s not enough for the many victims who have been advocating tirelessly to make sure no families go through what we have.

Fischer: Mr. Bozzella and Ms. Wilson, in January NHTSA announced a final rule to update certain definitions and vehicle crashworthiness standards to account for automated and passenger-less vehicles. However, NHTSA has not officially published that final rule, meaning the rule has not gone into effect. Do you believe NHTSA should publish that final rule, and if so, why?

Ms. Wilson: We submitted comments to those rules. Crashworthiness is something we work very closely with on with our customers obviously. We think there is a lot of data there as Ms. Taylor recognized there is a lot of data out there on passive technology. I would have to go get back with you if we think it is time to publish that specific rule. I would like to go back to a theme Ms. Taylor talked about in her original testimony. It is not okay where we are. In our written statement, we had said NHTSA had lot a lot of its momentum and I want to be clear about where the supplier industry is on the NCAP program. The NCAP program has sufficient data to move forward to really talk to consumers about these passive technologies that she mentioned like AEB, lane-keeping, blind spots detections. Give that information. They can do that very quickly. At the same time, we could talk about these road maps or other things that can be done. Because we know, and you mentioned that in your question, these rule makings take substantial amount of time and we don’t quite understand why we should hold still for rule making when we could start to provide some consumers with at least the tools to move forward. It’s not okay where we are. We are losing ground competitively, we are also losing lives every day. 

Mr. Bozzella: I agree with Ann. I think there is an opportunity to take a more strategic and more robust approach to this through NCAP. We haven’t looked at NCAP and really address NCAP since 2011. We have an opportunity to use that really important tool to add crash avoidance technology right now to kind of kick start the program. As well as lay out a road map to make sure we are focused on the right technologies stakeholders are contributing and that we identify the regulations of the future that is necessary to improve safety.  

Fischer: Both of your organizations have called for updating NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program, which provides vehicle safety ratings for public information. Why is updating NCAP important to your members, and can you briefly describe your recommendations?

Mr. Bozzella: The first recommendation is to establish long-term and mid-term technology road maps. Opportunities for regulators and technology innovators as well as other stakeholders to come together and lay out a long-term game plan. What that does is create a win-win-win. Manufactures understand how the regulators are looking at these technologies and we can bring them into the fleet and use the new car assessment program to create ratings. This increases consumer confidence.

We think another recommendation is to bring all the stakeholders together, other researchers, other safety advocates, and others who have opinions about the importance of safety ratings. 

Finally, we would suggest adding crash avoidance technology to NCAP right now. Things like automotive emergency braking, forward collision warning systems, and lane keeping assistance alike. Because we should be rating those technologies as well.

Ms. Wilson: Our NCAP program is rated one of the worse, least effective NCAP programs in the world.  I’ll get you for the record the list of technologies. It’s sad. Want to talk about a competitive disadvantage. It’s right up there on how they rate NCAP programs. So first of all, that is one piece of this. A lot of these technologies are already available on vehicles. Many times when you go buy a vehicle right now you will have AEB and other things. We need to get this information out there. And I think one of the refrains that we keep hearing is a lot of this technology is already available to the Department of Transportation and to NHTSA. There is a full docket on NCAP. I think where we may disagree a little bit with our customers is I think we are willing to be a little more forward leaning and take a look and say to NCAP, look can’t you provide a forward-looking road map too so we aren’t just talking about the here and now but how we move forward things. Again, we want to work with all our vehicle manufacturers, with all of you, and with NHTSA, but there is no reason to delay.