The NHTSA Might Finally Get That Lead Administrator It's Been Missing

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
the nhtsa might finally get that lead administrator it s been missing

It’s been over a year since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had someone officially running the show. While plenty of political appointments have been held up by Senate approval, the NHTSA is one President Trump has neglected since taking office. Former General Electric executive Heidi King has been the Deputy Administrator since September, and will be the one Trump taps to assume overall leadership of the agency. It’s about time.

The NHTSA has to cope with the planned fuel efficiency changes, oversee the neverending Takata airbag recalls, and start doing some damage control with autonomous vehicle development. While the recall issues are likely to remain business as usual, the current administration has pursued lax standards for both autonomous safety and corporate efficiency rules — and both have seen growing opposition.

Entire states are already pushing back against the proposed fuel efficiency rollbacks and there have been two fatalities involving self-driving and semi-autonomous technology within the last month. Because of this, promoting King might be a wise choice. Her corporate ties have some people concerned she’ll go easy on businesses, but at least she already has some experience in dealing with the big issues.

King dispatched investigative teams to both the fatal Uber crash and the life-ending highway incident involving Tesla’s Autopilot system last month, and is already handling questions regarding the fuel rollbacks. “It will be a proposal that will stimulate dialogue, robust listening to the data and the stakeholders that should inform a decision before we go to a final rule stage,” King said of the efficiency changes in March.

In addition to her corporate history, King previously served in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and spent two years as chief economist on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. On paper, she seems qualified for the job. But few expect her to rattle any cages on policy. There have been few indications that she’ll encourage the NHTSA to reevaluate Vision 2.0 or challenge the Department of Transportation to be harder on autonomous testing.

However, King does seem committed to the cause and says her biggest challenge will be ensuring swift and seamless safety recalls. She has previously said more needs to be done to address the nearly 30 million U.S. vehicles that remain unfixed in the Takata air bag inflator recalls, as they still pose a serious danger to motorists.

King’s appointment as head of the NHTSA is subject to Senate approval, meaning it could be a while before the position is officially filled.

[Image: U.S. Department of Transportation]

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  • Stingray65 Stingray65 on Apr 06, 2018

    Yea, but what about that Russian collusion and Stormy Daniels and racism and...?

    • See 1 previous
    • Stingray65 Stingray65 on Apr 07, 2018

      @Luke42 That is the best thing about Trump - most of the agencies in DC should be shut down or at the very least SEVERELY downsized. Unelected bureaucrats that can't be fired, and typically with far leftist agendas need to be booted out so they can see what the "real world" is like where you need to earn a profit to survive, and where you don't get a gold plated pension after 20 years of "service".

  • Danddd Chicago at night is crazy traveling in and out from the 'burbs. Taking the Ike back home around midnight and you'll see racers swerving by at 100mph plus. Dangerous enough we rarely go down there anymore. I plan my city trips between 9:30AM and back out by 1PM to miss the worst traffic.
  • SCE to AUX Good summary, Matt.I like EVs, but not bans, subsidies, or carbon credits. Let them find their own level.PM Sunak has done a good thing, but I'm surprised at how sensibly early he made the call. Hopefully they'll ban the ban altogether.
  • SCE to AUX "Having spoken to plenty of suppliers over the years, many have told me they tried to adapt to EV production only to be confronted with inconsistent orders."Lofty sales predictions followed by reality.I once worked (very briefly) for a key supplier to Segway, back when "Ginger" was going to change the world. Many suppliers like us tooled up to support sales in the millions, only to sell thousands - and then went bankrupt.
  • SCE to AUX "all-electric vehicles, resulting in a scenario where automakers need fewer traditional suppliers"Is that really true? Fewer traditional suppliers, but they'll be replaced with other suppliers. You won't have the myriad of parts for an internal combustion engine and its accessories (exhaust, sensors), but you still have gear reducers (sometimes two or three), electric motors with lots of internal components, motor mounts, cooling systems, and switchgear.Battery packs aren't so simple, either, and the fire recalls show that quality control is paramount.The rest of the vehicle is pretty much the same - suspension, brakes, body, etc.
  • Theflyersfan As crazy as the NE/Mid-Atlantic I-95 corridor drivers can be, for the most part they pay attention and there aren't too many stupid games. I think at times it's just too crowded for that stuff. I've lived all over the US and the worst drivers are in parts of the Midwest. As I've mentioned before, Ohio drivers have ZERO lane discipline when it comes to cruising, merging, and exiting. And I've just seen it in this area (Louisville) where many drivers have literally no idea how to merge. I've never seen an area where drivers have no problems merging onto an interstate at 30 mph right in front of you. There are some gruesome wrecks at these merge points because it looks like drivers are just too timid to merge and speed up correctly. And the weaving and merging at cloverleaf exits (which in this day and age need to all go away) borders on comical in that no one has a bloody clue of let car merge in, you merge right to exit, and then someone repeats behind you. That way traffic moves. Not a chance here.And for all of the ragging LA drivers get, I found them just fine. It's actually kind of funny watching them rearrange themselves like after a NASCAR caution flag once traffic eases up and they line up, speed up to 80 mph for a few miles, only to come to a dead halt again. I think they are just so used to the mess of freeways and drivers that it's kind of a "we'll get there when we get there..." kind of attitude.