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Automotive News
October 14, 2015 - 6:15 pm ET
WASHINGTON -- Automakers would earn credits for meeting fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions targets by installing crash-avoidance and connected-car technologies on new vehicles under a broad set of safety reforms proposed by staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The draft proposal seeks to address several weak spots in auto-safety regulation exposed by recent high-profile recalls.

Specifically, the congressional staff proposal would:

• Require automakers to email recall notifications to customers in addition to sending them by first-class mail.

• Create a program whereby states notify drivers of open recalls when renewing vehicle registrations.

• Require suppliers to provide auto-safety regulators with parts numbers of components deemed to be defective in a recall.

• Establish an auto cybersecurity council to be led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and with representatives from automakers, to develop automotive cybersecurity best practices.

• Direct automakers to implement policies governing the collection and use of data from vehicle owners.

• Make it illegal to hack vehicle data or systems, with civil penalties of up to $100,000 for such violations.

The cybersecurity measures in the proposal seek to plug holes exposed by the hacking of a Jeep Cherokee in July, while the recall reforms are aimed at addressing regulatory shortfalls stemming from General Motors’ defective ignition switches and faulty Takata airbags.

“There is an urgency for improvement with both automakers and NHTSA as the next generation of vehicles and innovation are set to emerge,” committee chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said in a joint statement. “It is an ever-changing landscape, and we look forward to working with our colleagues and stakeholders as this important process continues.”

The draft was released by the Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday ahead of a hearing on the reforms by the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee, which is chaired by Burgess, planned for Oct. 21.

The proposal seeks to create a system in which automakers would earn credits toward compliance with NHTSA’s corporate average fuel economy rules and the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.

The theory is that technologies that prevent crashes would reduce traffic congestion, thereby reducing overall fuel consumption. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents the Detroit 3 and nine other automakers, has lobbied publicly for such a credit system.


Automakers would earn credits for each new light vehicle sold starting with the 2018 model year that is equipped with at least three of nine advanced driver-assistance technologies, including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, or equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology.

To address auto cybersecurity, NHTSA would be required to create an automotive cybersecurity advisory council under the proposal. The group would be led by NHTSA’s administrator and include representatives from automakers that produce more than 20,000 vehicles in the U.S. a year and the U.S. Department of Defense.

NHTSA’s administrator also could invite other stakeholders to join the council, including representatives from parts suppliers, new-car dealers, independent repair shops, consumer advocates and cybersecurity researchers.

The group would develop best practices to ensure the quality and security of in-vehicle software controls and to monitor how software works with vehicle safety systems, access points to vehicle software and in-car security controls, among other things.

The proposal also would put added pressure on NHTSA to improve its oversight and management of recalls after the Transportation Department’s inspector general blasted the agency in a report this summer that exposed numerous deficiencies.

NHTSA would be required to update lawmakers periodically on progress toward implementing reforms recommended by the inspector general’s audit and to improve its website to make recall information more easily accessible to drivers.

If the proposal is enacted, the Transportation Department would also be required to issue three reports over five years analyzing steps taken by NHTSA to improve recall completion rates and find ways to fix more recalled cars. The reports would analyze recall completion rates by manufacturer, model year, type of defective component and vehicle type in the five years before each report.
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