ASA MA/RI Executive Director Stephen Regan (L) is pictured with ASA President Dan Risley at the United Stated Department of the Treasury in Washington DC where they met with the Treasuries Financial Insurance Office.  

By Steve Regan, Executive Director

Representing mechanical and collision repair shops in our region, I traveled to Washington, DC on September 5th & 6th, joining members of the ASA Collision Operations Committee for a series of meetings.

The objective of the two days of meetings was to two-fold. First, we wanted to encourage members of the House and Senate to block efforts to eliminate the Federal Insurance Office (FIO), which was created as part of the original Dodd-Frank law that was passed after the financial crisis of 2008. Additionally, in our meeting with FIO we sought to create a relationship where ASA could serve as an advisor and offer insight into the relationship between insurers and repairers and the customers they mutually serve.  

There is an ongoing discussion about whether consumers are better served with system of state oversight of automobile insurers or a system where the federal government would regulate the industry.  As this debate unfolds it is critical for repairers to have representation during these discussions.

Our second objective was to ensure that Congress understands that policy being developed today on new vehicle technologies will affect the collision repair and mechanical repair community and the customers they serve. While many people are focused on the end game of the self driving car, there are serious issues related to the use – or misuse – of the technologies needed to get to there. Many of these vehicles are already in use and present multiple challenges in the areas of customer privacy and shop liability. These meetings help assure that the repair industry position is considered.

Update on Technological Advances

Prior to the meeting with FIO we had a roundtable breakfast with Brian Markwalter, Senior Vice President of the Consumer Technology Association, Christopher Hill, Principal/Director of Booz Allen Hamilton, and Steven Bayless, Vice President of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. These gentlemen provided amazing insight into the fast paced introduction of electronic technologies into vehicles. They concurred that the industry is changing so fast it is difficult for Congress and state legislatures keep up and provide appropriate oversight. They also, to varying degrees, concurred that fully functional self driving vehicles were still many, many years away.

Vehicle Data Privacy

We then met with David Wise, Director of the Physical Infrastructure Team of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to discuss a recent report they created at the request of Congress titled Vehicle Data Privacy. Mr. Wise and the two primary authors of the report briefed us on how the Report was researched and their interviews with major car manufacturers and other industry experts and the answers they were provided. The Report includes an analysis of what information automakers are collecting via telematics, the methods for authorization to collect the data, how the data is being used and if it is being shared with third parties. Unfortunately, all of the privacy concerns over the use of private consumer information by cell phone and internet companies are now present when you turn the key.

On the Hill

We then went to Capitol Hill and had meetings with Congressman Drew Ferguson and Tom Graves, from Georgia and the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and Senators Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Ed Markey of Massachusetts. The House has recently passed a bill on Automated Vehicles and we wanted to be sure that repairer interest were addressed.

The liability associated with repairing vehicles with advanced crash avoidance technology is very high and we need to be sure that all repairers have access to the necessary repair information required to fix the car properly and to secure the personalized data that the vehicle computer now store in the OBD through blue tooth connections and direct connectivity to the drivers smart phone.

Sen. Markey has introduced legislation that would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish federal standards to secure our cars and protect drivers’ privacy. The Security and Privacy in Your Car (SPY Car) Act also establishes a rating system — or “cyber dashboard”— that informs consumers about how well the vehicle protects drivers’ security and privacy beyond those minimum standards.  

Last year, Senator Markey released “Tracking & Hacking: Security & Privacy Gaps Put American Drivers at Risk,” a report which detailed major gaps in how auto companies are securing connected features in cars against hackers. For example, only two of the 16 car companies had developed any capability to detect and respond to a hacking attack in real time. Most customers don’t even know that their information is being collected and sent to third parties.

Bob Redding, ASA’s lobbyist and Washington DC representative did a great job coordinating this two-day event. These types of meetings are critical to ensure that as Congress and the federal government develops policies around this lightning speed merger between autos and advanced technologies that the repairer has a seat at the table and a our voice is heard voice.  As I have stated many times before, when it comes to the government you are either at the table or you are on the table.

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