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Thursday, May 27, 2010

What's In HR5381, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010

The House committee on energy and commerce has voted to release HR 5381, the Motor Vehicle Safey Act of 2010, to the full house for a vote.

So what is in it?  Here is a quick synopsis.  You can read it for yourself here.  My comments in italics.

Section 101: The NHTSA will create a Center for Vehicle Electronics and Emerging Technologies to focus attention on electronics.  The Secretary Of Transportation will set up an honors recruitment program which will make an effort to recruit from the top 10% of engineering students, particularly among minority institutions, and to provide a stipend for students who participate.  (What is this doing in an auto safety bill?  No wonder people are angry at congress!)

Section 102: The NHTSA has one year to design a safety standard for a bake-throttle over-ride system.  The system may be user defeatible, and may allow two-pedal driving under some conditions. (I think this is reasonable, as long as NHTSA has flexibility in how they do this)

Section 103: The NHTSA will update FMVSS 124 within two years with a rule that requires at least one redundant control to be present in an accelerator control system.  (This is not necessary.  All electronic throttle control systems that I am aware of have multiple redundant sensors and controls.)

Section 104: The NHTSA will consider a rule, within 18 months, to regulate the design of pedal spacing and clearance.  If NHTSA decides that the rule is appropriate, it will be in force within 4 years.  

Section 105: The NHTSA will consider a rule, within 2 years, to require minimum performance standards for electronic control systems.  If NHTSA decides that the rule is appropriate, it will be in force within 4 years.  (This is a difficult task.  Will NHTSA require certain levels of EMC testing, for example?  Lots of work for engineers going forward...)

Section 106: The NHTSA will, within 2 years, issue a rule to standardize the operation of push-button start systems.  (I have no problem with this, as long as there is flexibility in the rules to allow for future technologies)

Section 107: The NHTSA will, 1 year, issue a revision to FMVSS 102 to make automatic transmission gear selectors easier to use, and to make neutral obvious.  (This will be an intrusive regulation, but I don't really object, if it makes cars easier to use.  It may however force everyone to have similar shifter styling.)

Section 108: Event Data Recorders will be required starting in 2015 model year.  EDRs will store at least 10s of data, and will have a standard interface.  EDR information will be readable with commercial equipment.  EDR data is the property of the vehicle owner or lessee, and cannot be retrieved without his consent other than by a court order.  Government agencies can get the data if personal information has been scrubbed, for study purposes.  EDRs will be tamper resistant.  

Section 201: NHTSA early warning data from defect investigations will be made publicly availible.

Section 202: NHTSA's vehicle safety database will be made more accessible to the public.

Section 203: NHTSA will require automakers to put a sticker in each vehicle which informs the owner how to submit a vehicle safety defect complaint to NHTSA.  (This is lame.  Why put it on each car? Don't we have enough nanny stickers everywhere?  Why not put it in the owner's manual, where the warranty coverages and other related information go?)

Section 204: NHTSA will set up a hotline for dealership personnel to report potential defects.  (Can't mechanics use the existing system?)

Section 205: Automaker executives will be required to sign submissions to NHTSA, certifying that they have reviewed the reported information.  Anyone found to make a false report will be fined up to $5,000 per day. (Ouch)

Section 206: Allows people who have been rejected in claiming a defect to appeal the rejection to their court of appeals.

Section 207: If NHTSA can't make a deadline, they must explain why and also submit a new deadline.

Section 208: Sets up some reports NHTSA must make to congress regarding defect and crash investigations.

Section 301: There will be a $9 per car tax to help fund the NHTSA.  It will be indexed to inflation.  (In a 12 million car market, that will be a nice sum of $108,000,000.  Our cars will all get $9 more expensive)

Section 401: The maximum fine per vehicle that NHTSA will be able to levy for rule violations increases from $5,000 to $25,000.  The total cap increases from $15,000,000 to $200,000,000.

Section 402: If NHTSA determines that a defect is an "imminent hazard", an imminent hazard order will be issued within 10 days.  (This isn't a recall, just a quick notification to the public, if I understand it correctly.)


Marc said...

Firstly I come to know about these sections first time .and sharing a blog about auto industry.

Jimmy said...

Regards 102: No, not reasonable. What is reasonable would be for the government to say they want the system. Let the auto companies design it so that the system works within their design specs, etc.

Government out.