November 2016 Region 5 Newsletter

November 4th, 2016

Welcome to the November edition of the Region 5 newsletter.

Federal Guidance Released on Autonomous Vehicles; Questions Remain About States' Role

Information from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation(MRF)

Over the last several months, an influx of companies have announced plans to pursue the creation and manufacture of self-driving cars. GM, Daimler, Volvo, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Audi and BMW are only a fraction of global automakers that have already announced their intention to pursue technology making some vehicle models fully or partially autonomous. And as they often do, the federal government has had to play catch up in taking a position on this emerging technology and where they fit in to facilitate the entry of autonomous vehicles onto American roads.

Recently, the Department of Transportation gave good indication of where they stand with the issuance of federal guidelines released on September 20. The guidance included a 15-point safety assessment for automakers to design, develop and test self-driving cars. The framework also includes options for federal transportation regulators to authorize automated vehicles under existing law, as well as lists legislative or regulatory changes that could be needed "as the technology evolves and is deployed more widely." In addition, automakers will have to document to federal regulators how they're addressing ethical considerations like whether to program a car to hit another vehicle rather than a pedestrian.

Importantly, the policy did make clear that federal and state roles needed to be clearly defined and insisted that the goal was to avoid fifty individual state standards thus creating a "patchwork" of autonomous vehicle laws. Instead, the guidance suggested that the state's role should focus more on traditional functions as they have in the past; specifically licensing and liability.

A number of states, however, have already begun taking steps to address the technology. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, Nevada was the first state to authorize the operation of autonomous vehicles in 2011. Since 2012, at least 34 states and D.C. have considered legislation related to autonomous vehicles. As more and more automakers announce intentions to also utilize the technology, the number of states pursuing legislation on the issue will likely grow.

Critics of the guidance say that the Department of Transportation (DoT) needs to establish formal and enforceable regulations governing self-driving vehicles. However, DoT countered saying that going through the traditional rulemaking process to establish federal regulations would not keep up with new technology and they needed to remain flexible to address new concerns as they emerge. Supporters of the guidance agreed, saying that the policy gives automakers the green light to be innovative, but still keeps safety at the forefront through its recommended safety assessment. In addition, DoT announced that it intends to update the policy each year in order for it to remain up-to-date and reflect the current technology and environment.

It appears through the issuance of guidance rather than regulations that the role of the federal government may lean heavily on oversight and enforcement. In fact, the guidance suggested that DoT may ask Congress for more oversight powers to achieve this. Just how and to what extent the federal government will be involved with this technology still very much remains to be seen. The question will be more closely examined over the course of the next few months with congressional hearings already in the works likely taking place during the lame duck session of Congress which kicks off after the general election in November.

Many people consider autonomous vehicles to be a significant part of the future of the automotive industry. For motorcycle riders, they too understand that self-driving vehicles will be on the road in the future, but have started to voice concerns from the perspective of concern for their safety. While not opposed to autonomous vehicles, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) maintains that federal authorities must require robust testing with regard to motorcycle recognition and responsiveness. Given their smaller profile on the road, it's a valid concern for many bikers. In addition, the MRF insists DoT must ensure that electronic security systems have strong standards to ensure safety and security precautions eliminate risks to motorcyclists. In addition, clear liability of fault must be established when it comes to crashes, and in doing so, motorcyclists should not face unfair advantages.

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation plans to file comments on the DoT guidance echoing their concerns voiced above.

To see the DoT announcement and review the federal guidance and fact sheets, click on the following link: CLICK HERE


Department of Transportation Unveils ‘Road to Zero' Sets Lofty Goal of Achieving Zero Traffic Deaths by 2030

Information from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation(MRF)

On Wednesday, over 75 organizations dedicated to highway safety gathered to hear details about a new initiative from the Department of Transportation called, "Road to Zero." Officials from the Department of Transportation (DoT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Safety Council unveiled details of the initiative touting its commitment to eliminate all traffic-related deaths by the year 2030.

Officials spoke about ‘losing ground' when it comes to lowering death rates on the nation's roadways and pointed to the recently published statistic of a 7.2% increase in traffic deaths in 2015 which accounted for over 35,000 lives lost. Even more troubling were preliminary numbers for the first half of 2016 which shows a potentially even greater increase, currently projected to be 10.4%. Note that these numbers are for all traffic related deaths; not just motorcyclists.

Specifics of the initiative were still in development with DoT authorities projecting a 12-18-month time frame for developing details of the long term plan. However, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind laid out three areas that he expected the initiative to center around which included the following:

With the general parameters laid out, the conversation shifted to who and what groups would participate in developing the specifics of the long-term plan in achieving Road to Zero's objectives. There is currently a steering committee of 12 groups which included auto and equipment manufacturers, researchers and other entities such as the Governors' Institute for Highway Safety. In addition to the steering group, authorities proposed a role for all interested parties to play a role in the coalition which is likely to meet quarterly over the next 18 months. It was unclear if any motorcycle presence or viewpoints would be taken into consideration though generally the consensus was that DoT was interested in participation from all interested parties.

After the long-term plan is developed, additional activities will take place including funding for grants for organizations that aim to achieve the objectives laid out as well as a road map for policy, legislative and regulatory decision makers to incorporate into new or existing laws and regulations.

In addition to the steering committee and broader coalition, the point was made that Road to Zero would also engage with partners with similar objectives; namely Europe's ‘Vision Zero' embraced by some U.S. cities and states as well as ‘Towards Zero' which employs similar objectives. It should be noted that when Europe's own Vision Zero was introduced some years ago, motorcycles were a controversial subject with some suggesting that had no place in modern traffic systems.

Understanding that this initiative will be a major area of focus for regulators and policymakers over the next year, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) will continue to be engaged in the coalition ensuring that motorcycles, biker rights' and a focus on motorcycle crash prevention remain a part of the dialogue as this initiative moves forward. In addition, the MRF will pay particularly close attention and seek unbiased answers as to how the initiatives under this program have played out in Europe and ensure these communications are made to policymakers in the U.S. as this program gets underway.


Industry-Funded Publication Makes Claims About Effects of Helmet Law in Michigan; Fails to Connect the Data to the Claim

Information from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation(MRF)

In the recently issued publication, "Status Report," a concerning article appeared citing a rise in head injuries in Michigan and attributed this to the State's 2012 repeal of its helmet law. Notably, the article is part of a publication created by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) which, according to their website, is wholly funded by insurance companies.

The article pointed out that trauma centers in the state have experienced an increase in head injuries and partnered with the University of Michigan Injury Center to analyze motorcycle crash deaths and head-injury data since the repeal. Its findings suggested a 14% increase in hospitalized trauma patients with a head injury. However, it was unclear in the article that the increase in head injuries was directly related to motorcycle crashes. And moreover, that those crashes included drivers who were not wearing helmets. This data would have been critical to prove the article's legitimacy. Surprisingly, given the article's clear and matter of fact headline, "Head Injuries Rise as Riders Ditch Helmets in Michigan," the author fails to notate anywhere in the piece that the increase in head injuries in hospitals is directly attributed to motorcycle crashes and those that were not wearing helmets. For many, the article's concluding claim could be considered irresponsible journalism given that they fail to attribute the data to the exact subject they discuss in the article.

Furthermore, halfway through the article, it states, "there was no significant increase in the motorcycle fatality rate state-wide." This sentence alone debunks what the research set out to do which was prove that deaths attributed to motorcycle crashes increased due to the helmet law repeal. Clearly, the research did not support the author's hypothesis.

Biased pieces like the one in the September issue of Status Report frustrate motorcycle experts in the state who spend their personal time and livelihoods promoting motorcycle safety and awareness programs. Often, these individuals try to direct the focus to motorcycle crash prevention rather than the concept that IIHS touts; safer crashing. According to a recently issued press release from ABATE of Michigan, the real concern for riders' safety is unendorsed motorcyclists and cars violating motorcyclists' right of way.

Jim Rhodes, Legislative Coordinator for ABATE of Michigan agrees, stating that his objective, "has and always will be to promote motorcycle safety and car driver awareness programs in Michigan." In fact, according to Rhodes, the motorcycle rights' organization in Michigan has helped to pass four separate bills in recent years aimed at addressing the issue of uninsured riders as well as motorcycle safety and awareness. Further, the organization has partnered with public and private schools to reach more than 80,000 new drivers about motorcycle awareness.

Many motorcycle enthusiasts will argue that it's the activities like the ones being executed by ABATE of Michigan that make the real difference in motorcycle safety and a more accurate reason as to why motorcycle deaths in the state have not increased despite the repeal of the helmet law.


Federal agency seeks comments on automated vehicle policy - Voice your opinion today!

Information from the American Motorcyclist Association(AMA)

On Sept. 20, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requested comments on its plan for a federal automated vehicle policy. The deadline to submit comments is Nov. 22.

According to the NHTSA notice, "Technologies that can help drivers avoid crashes, or help vehicles themselves avoid crashes, are ushering in a new era of safety for the motoring public." These technologies require "sophisticated computer systems and software to interpret and use the data obtained by the vehicle … to address and mitigate that overwhelming majority of crashes due to human choices or behavior."

Reducing traffic crashes involving motorcycles and decreasing the number of motorcycle operators and passengers injured or killed each year is a top priority of the American Motorcyclist Association. Through a comprehensive approach of promoting rider education, the use of personal protective equipment, increased motorist awareness and discouraging impaired motorcycle operation, the AMA seeks to enhance motorcycle safety in transportation and recreational activities.

With the proliferation of advanced technologies in passenger vehicles and light trucks, the AMA needs assurances that the federal automated vehicle policy includes motorcycles as part of its plan.

As outlined in the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fact Sheet: AV Policy Section I: Vehicle Performance Guidance For Automated Vehicles, the plan includes a "15-Point Safety Assessment" to "set clear expectations for manufacturers developing and deploying automated vehicle technologies."

To ensure "clear expectations" are developed at an early stage, the AMA urges the NHTSA to test algorithms and software in vehicles to ensure that this new technology adequately and appropriately identifies and properly responds to motorcycles in all traffic situations.

Additionally, the AMA is concerned that vehicle operators will become increasingly dependent on these devices and complacent with regard to their proficiency in operating their vehicle, subscribing to the mindset that "technology will rescue me from any bad decisions I make."

Therefore, the federal automated vehicle policy should include a consumer awareness campaign to educate the public on these new technologies.

Advanced crash-avoidance warning systems technologies used in motor vehicles must not supplant an operator's responsibility to operate the vehicle in a safe and responsible manner. While technology can, and should, enhance the actions of the operator to maintain control of the vehicle, safe operation of a motor vehicle should remain the operator's highest priority.

With the safety of motorcyclists the utmost priority of the AMA, we urge you to voice your opinion before Nov. 22.

Click here to "TAKE ACTION".


More DoT Guidance Issued Relating to Cyber Security & Driverless Vehicles; Critics Voice Concerns

Information from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation(MRF)

Despite the year winding down, the Obama Administration continues to be active on issues that affect bikers, particularly within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT). As part of their latest effort to keep up with rapidly developing car technology, this week the Agency issued proposed guidance for vehicle cybersecurity for automakers. This issue is closely related to the continued advancement of autonomous or "driverless" vehicles on the nation's roadways. Motorcyclists have raised concerns that the technology and cybersecurity systems must have strong enough standards to ensure safety and security precautions and therefore eliminate any risks to motorcyclists who are likely to share the road with self-driving cars in the not so distance future.

According to the guidance issued this week, the Agency recommended that automakers and tech companies include multiple layers of protection in their designs and consider digital threats based on their level of risk. This is in an effort to address instances of hacking, an increasing concern not just limited to transportation. In recent weeks there was a massive internet outage experienced by many Americans caused by unknown hackers. The issue of the cybersecurity has also become a reoccurring theme in the U.S. elections; the Democratic National Committee was hacked by assailants likely in an effort to interfere with the upcoming election.

Clearly, the aforementioned instances demonstrate a vulnerability within the U.S. government's ability to help protect against breaches and other security failures that can put motor vehicle safety at risk. As more and more automakers shift towards developing autonomous vehicles for use on the nation's roadways, cybersecurity of these vehicles must be a key consideration for not just the drivers, but everyone on the road; including bikers.


Criticism of Voluntary Guidance

Though DoT Secretary Anthony Foxx says ensuring the cybersecurity and protection of autonomous vehicles is a "top priority" for the Agency, lawmakers have said the guidance is not enough and that more needs to be done.

Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) and Ed Markey (Massachusetts) released a statement in response to Monday's DoT announcement stating the following;
"If modern day cars are computers on wheels, we need mandatory standards, not voluntary guidance, to ensure that our vehicles cannot be hacked and lives and information put in danger."

Many motorcyclists would agree. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation is currently in the process of filing official comments with the Agency reiterating this exact point. While emerging technology is generally positive, proper precautions and standards must be achieved in order to ensure the safety of all roadway users.


Activity Across the Pond

Lawmakers across the European Union have also started to discuss the issue of autonomous vehicles and have been working with industry on how to build better standards for cybersecurity. Car safety checks, brakes and seatbelts have been regulated for decades, but cybersecurity on entertainment systems or GPS navigation have not been regulated in either Europe nor in the U.S. Instead, the common practice has been to let automakers come up with their own solutions instead of imposing regulatory requirements.

As autonomous vehicle technology develops, cybersecurity related to the control of these vehicles must be carefully and closely regulated to ensure all roadway users are safe.

For more information on the guidance including a copy of the policy and instructions to file comments: CLICK THIS LINK


Where do your candidates stand on motorcycle issues? Check today!

Information from the American Motorcyclist Association(AMA)

With Election Day rapidly approaching weeks away, the American Motorcyclist Association reminds you to check out the AMA 2016 Vote Like A Motorcyclist campaign, created just for you.

Go to Ohio's state-specific web page to see where your candidates stand.

A key component is the federal incumbents' "AMA Gauge" rating. A green indicator indicates a candidate is 100 percent in agreement with the priorities of the AMA and its members.

Reach out to your candidates for Congress and the gubernatorial and presidential elections. Just use the prewritten message we have provided to ask your candidates about the motorcycling issues most important to you. Then forward their responses to us at grassroots@ama-cycle.org.


Owners of autocycles can drive them without a motorcycle endorsement

Information from the American Motorcyclist Association(AMA)

Owners of autocycles can drive them without a motorcycle endorsement under a law (H.B. 429) went into effect in September. The three-wheeled vehicles, such as the Polaris Slingshot, sport side-by-side seating, steering wheels and other car-like features. Polaris operates a facility in Wilmington, Ohio. State Rep. Niraj Antani, who sponsored the bill, said all of the state's public safety personnel supported the change.


Federal agency to hold public meeting on automated vehicles - Live webcast available!

Information from the American Motorcyclist Association(AMA)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking your input on its proposal for automated vehicle policy during a public meeting on Nov. 10.

The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET on Nov. 10 at the U.S. General Services Administration, Regional Office Building, 301 Seventh St. SW (7th & D Streets), Washington, D.C., 20407.

A live webcast of the meeting will be available at www.nhtsa.gov/AV

Those who wish to participate or attend must register at https://docs.google.com/forms/NHTSAFederalAutomatedVehiclePublicMeeting by Nov. 8.


Federal agency seeks comments on vehicle cybersecurity policy - Voice your opinion today!

Information from the American Motorcyclist Association(AMA)

On Oct. 28, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requested comments on its Cybersecurity Best Practices for Modern Vehicles manual. The deadline to submit comments is Nov. 28.

The American Motorcyclist Association applauds the NHTSA for its effort, because this manual represents a sound first step in meeting a provision of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (i.e., Highway Bill) related to cybersecurity standards. It will help prevent hacking, spoofing and disruption of connected and automated transportation vehicles.

As an organization that represents motorcyclists who will share the road with vehicles using these technologies, safety is our utmost concern. Therefore, we support the NHTSA's recommendations to automobile manufacturers. Specifically, "Allocating dedicated resources within the organization focused on researching, investigating, implementing, testing, and validating product cybersecurity measures and vulnerabilities.".

Since 2014, the AMA has been urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to test the security of vehicle-to-vehicle communications to ensure motorcyclists' safety and privacy. If this manual is adopted, it will help ensure that vehicles using advanced crash-avoidance and vehicle-to-vehicle technologies are not compromised. A threat the Federal Bureau of Investigation warns is a real risk.

With vehicular intersections already a well-documented problem for motorcyclists, can you imagine the danger presented by a false sense of security among drivers who rely too heavily on advanced safety technologies? Drivers may believe these technologies will fully protect them, as well as other road users, and may not be prepared should these technologies malfunction at a critical juncture.

With the safety of motorcyclists the utmost priority of the AMA, we urge you to voice your opinion before Nov. 28.


Motorcycle Riders Foundation Nominates Ric Mellon to Serve on Recently Formed Advisory Committee on Self-Driving Vehicles

Information from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation(MRF)

In October, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a new federal Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation. The primary purpose of the Committee, known as ACAT, will be to assess DoT's current research, policy and regulatory abilities to advance the safe and effective use of autonomous vehicles. More specifically, the Committee will gather information and present recommendations to the Secretary on automated transit vehicle technologies, and other advanced technology deployment in the area of surface transportation.

Ric Mellon, an active member of both the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) and ABATE of Wisconsin, has been nominated to serve on the Advisory Committee given his expertise in the area of motorcycle safety and information technology. Kirk ‘Hardtail' Willard, President of the MRF, had this to say in his letter of endorsement, "[Ric] has a record of reliability in being able to speak to the impact that Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and autonomous vehicles will have on the almost 10 million registered motorcyclists on our nation's roadways… Mellon can provide critical information, advice and recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation on the safety, societal, ethical and real-life impacts this emerging class of vehicles may impose on motorcyclists."

Both federal and state lawmakers quickly followed suit drafting their own letters of recommendation for Mr. Mellon. Federal lawmaker Reid Ribble has drafted a letter of support along with Wisconsin State Senator Kathleen Vinehout. Senator Vinehout touted Mr. Mellon's "depth of knowledge" and "leadership skills as Executive Director and Board Member of ABATE of Wisconsin".

The MRF has been active in the ongoing discussions regarding autonomous vehicles and recently issued DoT guidelines. The organization is filing official comments with the agency by the November 21 deadline and also plans to participate in upcoming public meetings the Agency is holding on the issue. The MRF is focusing its comments around four key areas that may affect bikers; (1) the unique attributes of a motorcycle in relationship to autonomous vehicles, (2) the need for rigorous standards when it comes to cyber security, (3) the importance of establishing clear liability in future crashes involving driverless cars and lastly, (4) general concerns over the scope and enforceability of the recently issued DoT guidelines.

Nominations to the ACAT committee close this week and announcements of appointments should be determined in early 2017.


Election Day is almost here! - Remember to Vote Like a Motorcyclist!

Information from the American Motorcyclist Association(AMA)

With the election just days away, the American Motorcyclist Association reminds you to check out the AMA 2016 Vote Like a Motorcyclist campaign before heading to the polls!

Make sure you're prepared to vote by reading our state-by-state voter guides. Basic voter information is available on your state page. Information is available on your polling locations, polling hours and what you will need to vote.


Region 5 Monthly Meeting Info

Locations and times for the next Region 5 county meetings

Next Region 5 meeting for Clinton County is 11AM, November 13th at American Legion Post 49 in Wilmington, Ohio.

Next Region 5 meeting for Butler-Clermont-Hamilton counties is 11AM, November 6th at The Train Stop in Foster, Ohio.