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U.S. Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Vehicle and Road Safety

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Oct. 22, 2015—Due to the recent surge of recalls, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held a hearing titled “Examining Ways to Improve Vehicle and Road Safety” on Wednesday. At the hearing, members addressed a legislative staff discussion draft that detailed strategies to improve vehicle safety.

Key points included increased reporting requirements for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a comprehensive plan to improve recall completion rates and a series of directives to the automakers that are designed to better protect consumer privacy and prevent vehicle hacking.

The key witnesses at the hearing were Mark Rosekind, NHTSA administrator, and Maneesha Mithal, associate director the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

During Mithal’s testimony, she expressed concern with some of the provisions in the discussion draft, specifically potential complications that could come from prohibiting all unauthorized access of electronic vehicle data. She explained that security researchers help hold automakers responsible to produce the best product by informing them of system vulnerabilities. Mithal also warned against an overrepresentation of automakers in the proposed “Automotive Cybersecurity Advisory Council.”

“Because any best practices approved by the Council will be ‘by a simple majority of members,’ manufacturers alone could decide what best practices would be adopted. … The proposed legislation, as drafted, could substantially weaken the security and privacy protections that consumers have today,” said Mithal.

Rosekind highlighted NHTSA’s responsibility to the public to set safety standards in his testimony. He also voiced concern with the draft.

“The Committee’s discussion draft includes an important focus on cybersecurity, privacy, and technology innovations, but the current proposals may have the opposite of their intended effect. By providing regulated entities majority representation on committees to establish appropriate practices and standards … the proposals could seriously undermine NHTSA’s efforts to ensure safety,” said Rosekind.

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