Critics are blasting a new Environmental Protection Agency rule that they claim breaks the Trump administration's commitment not to arbitrarily pick winners and losers in the self-driving car market.
Tucked into the EPA’s proposed Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient, or SAFE, Vehicles rule released in August is language that would give companies credit toward emissions standards for producing cars that include vehicle-to-vehicle communication capabilities---technology that allows autonomous cars to exchange speed and position information with each other to prevent accidents.
The EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are suggesting that the credit, which might be granted without a requirement for corroborating evidence that the technology reduces carbon dioxide output, be tied to a car's ability to transmit data using dedicated short-range communications, or DSRC, which relies upon a specific wireless spectrum to blast out signals.
Shortly before President Trump was sworn into office, the Obama administration released a controversial draft rule mandating that DSRC be used in autonomous cars. The Trump administration reportedly shelved the proposal, and some manufacturers are starting to use cellular communication instead, which proponents argue is more reliable and has a longer range.
Companies such as Audi and Ford have embraced the technology and demonstrated it in vehicles earlier this year.
Toyota and General Motors, meanwhile, have adopted DSRC, though it's unclear why that system was chosen by the EPA. Neither manufacturer responded to inquires about whether it had lobbied for the provision.
GM, which offered dedicated short-range communications in some 2017 Cadillac sedans, pledged in July to expand it to other vehicles.
Other manufacturers such as Tesla and Mercedes-Benz raised concerns over the technology's security vulnerabilities, however, and critics of the EPA proposal say the Department of Transportation, which encompasses the traffic safety administration and has repeatedly stressed that it would take a technology-neutral approach to regulating self-driving vehicles, is reneging on its commitment.
“If they were to go forward with this, this would violate the [agency’s] pledge to technology neutrality,” Marc Scribner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Examiner. “What they are doing is picking technology winners and losers."