Vehicle Communication Rule Expected by January: Foxx

Daily Report for Executives provides in-depth coverage of unfolding legislative, regulatory, and judicial news from the nation’s capital, the states, and around the world. This daily news service...

By Stephanie Beasley

Oct. 12 — Federal regulators are reviewing a draft vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication rule that may be released before the next president takes office, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) submitted a draft proposal to require V2V technology in all cars and light trucks to the White House at the beginning of this year. Foxx said he was optimistic that the rule would be released before the next administration takes over in January.

“It is, as you might imagine, pretty tedious work, and it goes through a very thorough process as it's working through,” Foxx told reporters at a pen-and-pad briefing, but he added he is “optimistic that we'll get it out before the end of the administration.”

The rule has become a lightning rod for the auto and Wi-Fi industries that have been bickering over a wireless spectrum band set aside for V2V. Wi-Fi groups have said that they could expand high-speed Wi-Fi by sharing the spectrum with carmakers (See previous story, 07/11/16).

Foxx said he was disturbed by what he saw as the telecommunications industry trying to undermine the Department of Transportation's issuance of the V2V rule that would permit auto manufacturers to move forward with plans to use the spectrum. The DOT and the Federal Communications Commission are working together to test spectrum-sharing tools. However, the 5.9 gigahertz spectrum band at the center of the industry fight should remain dedicated for use by connected cars until there is a proven and safe method of sharing it, Foxx said.

“Look, we feel very strongly that, until there is a different approach that's proven to be safe, we need to keep moving along towards the connected vehicle,” he said. “If we find that the data tells us something different and you can share it safely, then that will dictate a different outcome.”

Driverless Car Meetings Also on Agenda

News about the administration's progress on the V2V rule comes on the heels of NHTSA proposing industry guidelines for the safe deployment of self-driving cars.

A top Toyota Motor Corp. official recently told Bloomberg BNA that NHTSA was slated to hold public meetings on the self-driving car guidance it released last month. The company is hopeful that NHTSA will address of the ambiguities in the guidelines regarding areas like cybersecurity and data collection .

Foxx confirmed that NHTSA would hold what he referred to as “regional conversations” about its self-driving car recommendations during the 60-day comment period for the guidance. However, he cautioned that the goal was not to give specific answers about areas that continue to evolve.

Whereas it has been typical for the DOT to implement a safety approach after vehicle technology has been introduced to the market, this time the department is outlining its safety approach while the technology continues to evolve, and that makes it more difficult to provide concrete answers, Foxx said. He added that addressing ambiguities in the guidance was a task that would fall not only to regulators but also to the auto industry.

“The guidance lays out areas where we can be really clear today,” he said. “It also lays out areas where we think industry, government conversation and dialogue is important. Cyber is one of those areas. We've expressly said, ‘Here are some areas within cybersecurity that we think need to be discussed,' and we think the industry has got to be at the table talking about this.”

“The resolution isn't one that the government is going to come up with on its own,” Foxx added. “It's got to be a joint approach.”

The fact that individual automakers may be talking about it within their own companies isn't sufficient, Foxx said. He said the DOT would like to see manufacturers have industry-wide discussions about developing self-driving cars, which was one reason why it had pushed the auto industry to develop the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center. Cybersecurity is one of the priority areas of the center, whose membership includes companies such as BMW Group, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Toyota.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Beasley in Washington sbeasley@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.