On June 27, Congress held yet another hearing examining the federal government’s role in regulating automated vehicles. The U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Subcommittee hearing examined potential hurdles to widespread deployment of Highly Automated Vehicles (HAV), with attention focused on addressing the current patchwork of state laws governing automated vehicles.

Committee members on both sides of the aisle acknowledged potential safety benefits of automated vehicles. Democrats, however, cautioned about the need move cautiously in preempting state legislation. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 22 states already have legislation or Executive Orders on the books related to the operation of automated vehicles.

Witnesses from the Global Automakers and Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers emphasized the need to clarify the role of federal vs. state policy and to expand Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) exemptions, under the Safety Act.

House Republicans introduced a package of 14 bills intended to guide the deployment automated vehicles. The legislative package attempts to clarify appropriate federal and state roles in regulating automated vehicles while easing federal regulatory burdens. A section-by-section summary of each bill is available in the House Republican’s hearing briefing memo, starting on p. 7.

The following day, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly hosted a workshop on Connected Cars, which examined key policy issues raised by V2X technologies, including data ownership, cybersecurity, and privacy.

FTC Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen opened by remarking that, just like automobiles did 125 years ago, “that connected car technology could revolutionize the world again.” The Chair outlined the FTC’s expected role, including consumer education on privacy and data security issues, as well as the use of the Commission’s civil enforcement authority, where necessary, under section 5 of the FTC Act against manufacturers of connected devices, including cars.

Panels of experts delved into a series of thorny policy issues, such as data ownership rights. Still unresolved are issues of data ownership and use, addressing cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and examining privacy issues. Panelists discussed ongoing government and industry efforts to address these issues, including through the Auto-ISAC as well as the USDOT’s Connected Vehicle programs.

Several panelists, including Booz Allen Hamilton’s Dr. Christopher Hill, remarked on the fact that DSRC-based V2X systems benefit from a mature and well-established privacy and security features, including privacy-by-design and a robust PKI system.

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