November 22, 2016Intelligent Car Coalition LOGO

Intelligent Car Coalition
1155 F St, NW
Suite 1050
Washington DC 20004

U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
West Building Ground Floor
Room W12-140
Washington, DC 20590-0001

RE: Notice and Request for Comments on Federal Automated Vehicles Policy Proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Docket No. NHTSA-2016-0090

I. Introduction.

The Intelligent Car Coalition (ICC) respectfully submits these comments on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) proposed Federal Automated Vehicles Policy (Policy) published in the Federal Register September 23, 2016.

The merging of communications technologies with automotive transportation is creating exciting opportunities to make us safer on the roads, reduce our carbon footprints, and improve our quality of life. The ICC was formed to address public policy questions created in this new space. The ICC gathers leading stakeholders in the automotive, communications and technology industries for cross-industry discussions of policy issues and advocates for innovation in connected and automated vehicles1. We believe these intelligent car technologies will benefit not only individual consumers, but also our society as a whole, and we want public policies that speed beneficial technologies to market.

We have entered a new age of automotive mobility characterized by use of a new tool: digitized data. Data – flowing between vehicles and the road, between vehicles and infrastructure, between the vehicle and trusted third parties over the internet, and among vehicles – is the backbone of automated and connected vehicle systems. It is a technology that is fundamentally different than the traditional mechanical technologies upon which the automotive industry was built. The ICC believes the nature of digital data requires us to consider thoughtfully how the automotive space is evolving and what that change means for those who produce connected and automated vehicle technologies, the consumers who benefit from them, and the policymakers who seek to maximize their value to the public.

The ICC believes the Policy represents a good faith effort to encourage development of life-saving technologies. We applaud the Department of Transportation (DOT) and NHTSA for recognizing that speeding beneficial technologies to market will reduce crashes and save lives on our roads. However, we are concerned that some of language in the Policy – particularly having to do with data collection – will stymie efforts to coax the benefits of these technologies to the marketplace. The ICC respectfully offers its thoughts on the unique nature of data-based technologies and the fundamentally altered consumer marketplace to encourage additional government consideration of parts of the Policy having to do with data recording and sharing by manufacturers and other entities2.

II. Data is Different.

In some ways data is a unique tool, with characteristics unlike any mechanical tool. First, data has unique power: the capture, analysis, and deployment of perfect data allows for near-perfect decision-making. This is a particularly powerful tool when it comes to driving; a driver – human or machine – with perfect situational awareness has the best chance of avoiding a crash or mitigating injury. But even imperfect data – if better than the data a driver is currently using – can represent an improvement in input, and therefore an improvement in the chance that a crash could be avoided or mitigated.

Second, data is unique in its speed of evolution. The ability of data to rapidly be compiled into a beneficial technology, or help a product evolve into a better form, means that when applied to the field of transportation data technologies can speed us to achieve what no other tools have yet – safer mobility, cleaner air, and more efficient movement on our nation’s roads. Of course, mechanical tools also have the ability to be improved. But the exponentially faster production cycle of digital, data-based technologies means that stopping to examine them at every stage of evolution will impede their growth, and potentially keep their life-saving benefits from the public. In other words, because of the unique nature of data-based technologies, sooner can be safer.

Third, data possesses a unique growth effect: it can be fruitful and multiply in an environment made safe for sharing. Take, as one example, real-time traffic information services. By crowdsourcing data, it is possible to provide information on traffic conditions, potential road hazards, traffic signage and on-street parking in real time. Drawing data from a voluntary ‘crowd’ of sensors allows multiple drivers to create a new ‘product’ of situational awareness for every other driver who utilizes the data in a different location.

Fourth, data-based technologies have significant collateral benefits: the ability of data to be shared means its benefits can be shared too. In the crowdsourced data example, each individualized data ‘product’ can be used by a driver to avoid congestion, or even avoid an accident. In this way, the crowdsourced data flows to an individual’s benefit, but it also creates societal benefits – by reducing traffic congestion, reducing crashes, and hopefully saving lives.

III. Consumers are Key to Data Flow.

The traditional automotive ecosystem counted OEMs, suppliers and regulators as the main arbiters of automotive technology. However, in the connected, automated ecosystem consumers play a more powerful role. Technologies in this new ecosystem can be quickly created and may be speedily modified to account for consumer demand. In addition, thanks to the internet, consumers can interface with manufacturers of technology both more directly and more extensively than in the past. Consumers have more opportunities for input – and as a result, better leverage in the marketplace.

Consumers’ feedback, ability to share data and leverage their position in the market can inform a shortened design process for the overall vehicle platform, updatable digital components, and modifiable consumer-discretion technologies such as plug-ins and apps. The very data consumers help create may make up parts of these new products. Examples include everything from data gleaned by manufacturers on the performance of automated vehicle systems, to information on the performance of individual auto components, and more.

In addition, this new marketplace has attracted companies that compete to provide an expanding array of services by leveraging technologies in this new ecosystem. In turn, this competition expedites development of even more technologies. In other words, the pace at which many of these technologies can be created and modified to fit the consumer – combined with consumers’ power to personalize the driving experience and the increased market presence of companies willing to create new solutions for drivers – means that consumers are now placed at the center of the automotive value chain3.

IV. Consumers Make Risk/Benefit Calculations When Deciding Whether to Share their Data; the Vagueness of the Policy May Hinder Consumers’ Ability to Make that Calculation.

Just as better data can help lead us to better outcomes, data’s usefulness can be made imperfect by restriction of its flow. Flow can be restricted by curtailing the means by which it flows (such as lack of spectrum or physical infrastructure necessary for robust communications networks) or by legally restricting its flow (via inappropriate regulation), or, as in the case of the Policy, by dis-incentivizing those who create it and allow it to be used to create it and share it.

The ICC is concerned that the Policy’s language on the requirements for data collection and retention – including description of the entities that should collect it, under what circumstances it should be collected, and how much control consumers have over the process – is so vague that it may inhibit consumers from voluntarily sharing information in a way that is beneficial not just to individual consumers, but to all of society.

For instance, the Policy states that ‘entities’ that should ‘consider’ the Policy ‘include, but [are] not limited to, equipment designers and suppliers, entities that outfit any vehicle with automation capabilities…transit companies, automated fleet operators…and any other individual or entity that offers services utilizing highly automated vehicles.’4 One can imagine many individuals or entities that may offer services utilizing highly automated vehicles (HAVs) in the future. If, for instance, an individual limo driver is involved in an accident while delivering high school classmates to their prom in an HAV, is he or she subject to requests from the government about information about the trip?

Another question the policy presents is how certain ‘entities’ potentially involved in the operation of an HAV would create a safety assessment letter. For instance, it is foreseeable that in the future, companies that provide communications connectivity and security could be a part of the ecosystem that operates HAVs. In advance of deployment, should a connectivity company provide a report that includes a Safety Assessment letter? These companies are already regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and subject to specific restrictions on sharing consumer data5. So although DOT and NHTSA may wish entities to collect certain data, it is not clear whether existing FCC regulations may impact this request.

Another question the Policy presents is whether voluntary requests for information will turn mandatory at some point in the future. The Policy states that ‘NHTSA may consider, in the future, proposing to make some elements of this Guidance mandatory and binding…”6 However, the Policy offers no standard for picking elements of the Policy that it wants to become mandatory.
The ICC is concerned that consumers will be dis-incentivized to share their data if they believe it is subject to collection by the government via vague language. There is a difference to consumers between sharing information with a company with whom a driver has a relationship, and having their information shared with government entities. Consumers are able to control their relationships with private parties by via specific terms in user agreements. But consumers have no such control when it comes to government collection of their information.

We know that consumers weigh the risks and benefits of sharing information. Research by the Pew Research Center notes that “For most Americans who are making decisions about sharing their information in return for a product, service, or other benefit, the context and conditions of the transactions matter… Risk-benefit calculations that enter people’s minds during the decision process include the terms of the deal… whether they consider the company or organization involved to be trustworthy…”7

Unfortunately, Pew has found that the government is not well-trusted to keep consumers data private and secure. One statistic cited by Pew found that 54% of Americans are ‘not too confident’ or ‘not at all confident’ that government agencies can keep their records private and secure 8. In addition, Pew found consumers want to control over how their information may be used. Specifically, the survey said 74% of respondents said it is “very important” to them that they be in control of who can get information about them, and 65% said it is “very important” to them to control what information is collected about them.

V. Conclusion.

The ICC is concerned that the Policy’s language relating to capture of data to and from automated vehicles is vague, malleable, and represents an inappropriate intrusion into an ecosystem that has created a beneficial flow of data within innovative companies and among private parties that should be allowed to continue. We are concerned that Policy language regarding data recording and sharing will create consumer distrust, slow the flow of beneficial data, and delay deployment and consumer adoption of life-saving automated vehicle technologies.

Our nation is likely on track to lose over 35,000 Americans to vehicle crashes this year9. We know that newer cars are generally safer10, and that the vast majority of crashes are caused by driver error11. For these reasons, adoption of automated technologies that reduce human participation in the driving task will play a major role in reducing that number.

However, when the beneficial flow of data is interrupted by inappropriate public policy, it can be made unusable. Many of the societal benefits of these systems come from data being voluntarily given by vehicle owners to other trusted private parties. Without this sharing, we miss out on benefits not just as individual consumers, but also for our society as a whole. We request that DOT and NHTSA keep these ideas in mind as they evaluate the initial proposal.

Respectfully Submitted,

Catherine McCullough, Executive Director

Intelligent Car Coalition
1155 F Street NW | Suite 1050 | Washington, DC 20004

1 Members of the Intelligent Car Coalition include AT&T, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, CTIA, HARMAN, Innova, and Verizon.
2 Detailed discussion of data recording and sharing begins on page 17 of the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, but references to government collection of data created by manufacturers and related entities is present throughout the document. Page 11 of the Policy discusses the scope of the guidance, and says that the Policy should be considered by ‘traditional vehicle manufacturers and other entities involved with manufacturing, designing, supplying, testing, selling, operating, or deploying highly automated vehicles…these entities include, but are not limited to, equipment designers and suppliers, entities that outfit any vehicle with automation capabilities…transit companies, automated fleet operators…and any other individual or entity that offers services utilizing highly automated vehicles.’
3 See The Shifting Competitive Balance in the Automotive-Supply Industry, Nikolaus Lang, Brian Collie, and Bob Zhai (June 24, 2015). See also a similar discussion on consumers and their place in the smartphone value chain was written by Jonathan Sallet, “The Creation of Value: The Broadband Value Circle and Evolving Market Structures,” April 4, 2011.
4 Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, page 11.
5 For instance, sharing data in a Security Assessment letter may conflict with opt-in and opt-out requirements of the FCC’s Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) rules found in 47 U.S.C. Sec. 222 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
6 Id.
7 “The State of Privacy in Post-Snowden America,” Lee Rainie, Pew Research Center, September 21, 2016.
8 Id.
9 Traffic Safety Facts: An Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Half (Jan–Jun) of 2016, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (Oct. 2016).
10 An analysis published by NHTSA in 2013 concluded that drivers in vehicles 15 years old or older are at least 50% more likely to be fatally injured compared to a driver in a new vehicle, i.e., a vehicle 0 to 3 years old.
11 Traffic Safety Facts: Critical Reasons for Crashes Investigated in the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation (Feb. 2015); Traffic Safety Facts 2013: A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.