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Auto part suppliers push Congress to allow Tier 1 testing of AV components

Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 07:00
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Tier one auto parts suppliers are pushing Congress to allow them to test automated vehicles (AVs) like OEMs are allowed to do. The OEMs can apply to the Department of Transportation to test AVs under an exemption approved as part of the FAST Act.

President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) in December 2015. That law allows certain vehicle manufacturers (those who, prior to enactment of the FAST Act, had manufactured and distributed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS)-compliant vehicles and have registered with NHTSA) to introduce non-FMVSS-compliant motor vehicles into interstate commerce “solely for purposes of testing or evaluation” so long as they “agree not to sell or offer for sale the motor vehicle at the conclusion of the testing or evaluation….” The exemption allows an auto manufacturer to test up to 2,500 vehicles a year.

Parts suppliers such as Continental AG are not eligible to apply for an exemption, and cannot test an AV it builds. That limits the testing of AV components. "As a supplier, we need the ability to test the system," says Jeff Klei, President, North America Automotive Divisions, Continental AG. "It can't be just the OEMs."

Of course, the bigger objective is for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to change FMVSS so that autos don't need steering wheels, for example, which AVs won't have. But the reforming of FMVSS to accommodate AVs will take a long time.

Expanding the FAST Act exemption is a short-term solution and would allow OEMs and suppliers to test more cars, and perhaps get approval to do so more quickly. Currently, for simple exemption petitions NHTSA tries to grant or deny the petition within six months. For more complex petitions there is a 12-month timetable.

"I support raising the standard exemption cap as a temporary measure as NHTSA amends the existing safety standards," says Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI).

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