The Obama administration’s regulatory proposals for advanced safety systems and driverless car technology means the U.S. will finally start playing catch-up with Europe after long lagging behind, says Delphi Automotive CEO Kevin Clark.
The Federal Automated Vehicles Policy introduced on Sept. 20 by the U.S. Department of Transportation outlines a flexible, four-pillar strategy for the safe testing and deployment of automated vehicles, including for the first time a consistent national framework of laws to govern driverless cars.
Clark believes the proposed rules will make it easier for technology suppliers to develop and test the emerging systems in the U.S. Until now, automakers and suppliers have been working in the dark on what will be required of them — and even on what testing would be allowed on public roads. A national standard similar to Europe’s would help eliminate those concerns.
“The U.S. is trying to fix that,” Clark said.
“The U.S. government has seen the data on traffic fatalities, they’ve seen the benefits as it relates to safety here in Europe and they’ve worked real hard to create an environment where they are not getting in the way of things — they are actually encouraging them,” said Clark..
Clark said the crash safety standards set by Europe’s New Car Assessment Program played a key role in stimulating consumer demand for safety technologies there. In Europe, a coveted five-star vehicle safety rating is only achievable with some form of Level 2 assisted driving, such as autonomous emergency braking for pedestrian protection.
“With Euro NCAP, the reality is you had lower insurance rates if you had active safety. It incentivized consumers to have to pay for the technology, so it advanced faster here in Europe,” Clark said.
Europe’s premium carmakers were quick to install advanced life-saving features. Delphi moved the headquarters of its Electronics and Safety division to Germany to improve its commercial prospects by working with the automakers who adopted them early.
Chris Preuss, Delphi’s senior vice president in charge of government affairs, said the proposed U.S. rules will help suppliers create the necessary technology. The U.S. has suffered from a patchwork approach in which states decided whether to promote adoption or even allow it — something Delphi became acutely aware of during a test last year of the technology enroute from San Francisco to New York, Preuss said.
“When we tried to drive across the country, only 14 states had anything even on the books,” Preuss said. “We didn’t know whether we were legal.”