NHTSA Has Electrical Engineers… But Where?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
nhtsa has electrical engineers but where

Before Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood even took the stand before the House Energy Committee, the Washington Post [via TheCarConnection] reported that:

NHTSA officials told investigators that the agency doesn’t employ any electrical engineers or software engineers.

Down on the Potomac, zingers like that go over like an ounce of catnip in a phone booth full of rowdy toms. And sure enough, the question came up at LaHood’s testimony. In fact, it came up twice. And it was the closest thing to a real “gotcha” moment in a long day of testimony.

The first time the awkwardness was broached, Rep. Bobby Rush gently asked for clarification on the point. “We have electrical engineers,” LaHood insisted. “We have 125 engineers, and some of them are electrical engineers.” He then went on to suggest that the planned funding increase for 66 new positions would help bolster these ranks. “We’re moving away from stagnation,” he concluded.

Unsatisfied with the answer, Rep Bart Stupak noted that NHTSA staff had indicated during the committee’s investigation that “NHTSA has no electric engineers… they have some engineers who have taken some classes,” before trailing away to allow LaHood to make his blustery defense. “I’m sworn to tell the truth, Mr. Chairman,” steamed LaHood. “I wouldn’t be lying about engineers, I’ll tell you that. If I’m going to lie about something, it’s not going to be engineers.” When Stupak noted his amazement that committee staff hadn’t heard that NHTSA had electrical engineers on staff and available to the Office of Defect Investigation, LaHood simply smiled and said nothing.

The issue might have been left at that, if Rep Charles Martinez hadn’t brought it up one more time. Finally, LaHood admitted the truth that he had evaded through two lines of questioning from other committee members, saying:

We have two electrical engineers

So now we know. Unfortunately, like the rest of yesterday’s hearings, responsibility for this embarrassment traces back to lax congressional oversight as much as anything else. Which might be why the most embarrassing detail was conveniently left out. As USA Today reports, 18 months ago the DOT had one employee who made more than $170,000 per year. Today, the DOT pays 1,690 employees over $170k. In light of this, the NHTSA’s blindness to the proliferation of electronic systems in automobiles is just plain unforgivable.

Join the conversation
2 of 19 comments
  • 6260Claimer 6260Claimer on Feb 25, 2010

    From 1 employee earning more than $170k to 1,690 in 18 months? Anybody who reads that and doesn't understand that the federal government is COMPLETELY out of control is out of their mind. These guys are spending us into total financial collapse at breakneck speed.

  • Jackc10 Jackc10 on Feb 25, 2010

    It is true that the Federal Government rewards higher education. Pay grades, bonuses and other rewards come to those with degrees, from St. Leo to Stanford. The problem is that many of the persons employed by the US Government holding higher degrees and benefitting from the taxpayers largesse tend to have degrees from institutions barely known outside the county or URL the institution is located. It is also true that the Feds often use consultants to do work that needs credentials not actually found on the US Government payroll. The problem is that the consultants must have other credentials that have high political correctness and diversity scores, but might not break the ice in the real world. Then, their product is reviewed and the subject of multiple meetings. Judging is by the personnel described above. I do know that getting something published in a technical journal can be purchased and not all journals are of the same quality. This is not a "god help us" situation. It is the nature of the beast. I have worked with some Fed cubicle dwellers that really were close top notch and were there for the security, pension and higher education financial assistance. I will leave it someone else to figure out how common the good producers may be. To make this a car post and the reason for the post, I have Zero confidence in a NHSTA review of Toyota innards.

  • Fred The bigger issue is what happens to the other systems as demand dwindles? Will thet convert or will they just just shut down?
  • Roger hopkins Why do they all have to be 4 door??? Why not a "cab & a half" and a bit longer box. This is just another station wagon of the 21st century. Maybe they should put fake woodgrain on the side lol...
  • Greg Add me to the list: 2017 Sorento EX AWD w/2.0 Turbo GDI 68K miles. Changed oil religiously with only synthetic. Checked oil level before a rare long road trip and Ievel was at least 2 quarts down. That was less than 6 months after the last oil change. I'm now adding a quart of oil every 1000 miles and checking every 500 miles because I read reports that the oil usage gets worse. Too bad, really like the 2023 Tuscon. But I have not seen Hyundai/Kia doing anything new in terms of engine development. Therefore, I have to suspect that I will ony become a victim of a fatally flawed engine development program if I were to a purchase another Kia/Hyundai.
  • Craiger 1970s Battlestar Galactica Cylon face.
  • Master Baiter "...but the driver must be ready to step in and take control. The system is authorized for use during the day but at speeds lower than 40 mph..."Translation: It's basically useless, and likely more stressful than piloting the car ones's self.