Congress Will Be Bombarded With Autonomous Car Propaganda This Week

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

This week, the Coalition for Future Mobility — a recently formed automotive trade group representing major automakers and self-driving advocates — will roll out a bevy of targeted television spots, print ads, and social media posts specifically designed to encourage Congress to adopt legislation assisting the budding industry’s growth.

Earlier in the month, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would expedite the deployment of self-driving cars and prohibit states from blocking autonomous vehicle testing. This was immediately followed by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao publicly outlining the NHTSA’s updated automotive safety guidance — which was less about ensuring the safe development of self-driving cars and more about destroying regulatory red tape.

The Senate is the final piece of the puzzle. Automakers want to make sure it’s seeing things their way before casting their vote on whether or not the industry gets the governmental green light.

The House proposal only applies to vehicles under 10,000 pounds and would permit automakers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 test vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year. The cap would rise over a three-year period to 100,000 vehicles annually and could not be blocked by individual states. However, the Senate is looking at its own legislation that would likely expand to include heavier commercial vehicles.

Coalition for Future Mobility radio spots have been running for several weeks already. But this week’s sudden influx of persuasive media is to help influence Congress. According to Reuters, a Senate panel could take up the autonomous issue by October 4th — making this an opportune time to begin the campaign.

Here’s a taste of what the Coalition for Future Mobility has in store for them:

In addition to the advertisements, automakers will reach out to employees and retirees to encourage their members of Congress to support autonomous deployment, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers explained. The coalition isn’t soft-balling its message, either. It’s framing this entire situation as a important cultural milestone and historical turning point on its website:

“Sixty years ago, at a moment in time when visionary action was needed, Congress passed the federal interstate highway act. It brought mobility to a nation, strengthening the economy in a powerful way. This Congress is poised to make history again….to make its own tremendous advancements in transportation by liberating innovation for self-driving vehicles.

Right now, Congress is laying out a road map for self-driving vehicles in order to bring a host of benefits to Americans.”

The entire issue, as well as the campaign, is somewhat divisive. On one hand, automakers, tech companies, and advocates of autonomous vehicles would absolutely benefit from being mired in regulatory oversight. It could be the leg-up domestic firms need to ensure dominance in the new industry and get products to market. But safety advocates are right in throwing some shade at the government and automotive lobbyists. While automakers aren’t going to intentionally endanger the public, operating without a net could pose unnecessary risks.

Of course, safety advocates also say that self-driving technologies could eventually save 35,000 lives annually and reduce traffic accidents by a whopping 94 percent.

[Image: Coalition for Future Mobility]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Tylanner Tylanner on Sep 26, 2017

    Such shallow advocacy...."liberating innovation"? What form of enlightenment will creating indiscriminate chaos in high-noon Sunday traffic provide? I don't know the details of the legislation but we need to have some basic protections against the danger posed by bad autonomous vehicles. Clearly this group has some special interest in ensuring that manufacturers are given free reign... I don't see the benefit of turning this emerging market into the wild west...Bad autonomous technology in the wild can only destroy these companies and their reputations...this deserves an "abundance of caution" not "visionary action".

    • Stuki Stuki on Sep 26, 2017

      What these guys want to achieve, is a similar deal they have wrt cafe and other pointless obfuscations: Protection from nimbler startups. There is no reason in the world why a simple rule that every car on the road has to have a named, human, responsible driver, is enough. Whether that driver is on board, is driving remotely, or is driving abstractly, isn't all that relevant. If he successfully abides by the rules; fine. Otherwise, it doesn't really matter how he chooses to control his car. He's responsible anyway. But instead, the established makers, want to be allowed to run over people on occasion, in the name of "progress", "technology", "the economy", "beating China" or some other irrelevant inanity with appeal to the indoctrinati in a financialized progressive dystopia. But they also to make the "run over people for free" card, be reserved for those with a properly sized and established lobbying arm. Not some budding Levandovski slapping home built lidar on the Prius in his garage. Nor some Calthech kids MacGyvering up a "solution" to the problem of finding their designated driver drunk.

  • Doublechili Doublechili on Sep 26, 2017

    Advertisement uses guy in wheelchair to advocate for relaxing safety standards. Got it. But seriously, I think the phrase "collateral damage" is going to come back in vogue.

    • Kendahl Kendahl on Sep 28, 2017

      The implication is that it wasn't an auto accident that put him in a wheelchair. Your comment about collateral damage is well taken. It's one thing to design an autonomous vehicle that is safer than a driver who is drunk, distracted or suffering from dementia. Doing better than a competent, conscientious driver, which is the proper minimum standard, is a much bigger challenge.

  • Mike Evs do suck, though. I mean, they really do.
  • Steve Biro I don’t care what brand but it needs to be a compact two-door with an ICE, traditional parallel hybrid or both. A manual transmission option would be nice but I don’t expect it - especially with a hybrid. Don’t show me an EV.
  • ToolGuy Lose a couple of cylinders, put the rest in a straight line and add a couple of turbos. Trust me.
  • ToolGuy Got no money for the Tasman, it is going to the Taxman. 🙁
  • ToolGuy They should have hired some Ford Motor Company employees. No, I'm kidding -- they should have hired some Ford Motor Company executives. 😉