Welcome to the November edition of the Region 5 newsletter.
Region 5 Elections for 2017
December 4th and December 11th, 2016
Elections for 2017 Region 5 officer positions will be held at the December meetings held on December 4th at The Train Stop in Foster, Ohio and December 11th at American Legion Post 49 in Wilmington, Ohio. Last minute nominations may be made at the meetings before the voting.
NHTSA, Congressional Committees Solicit Feedback & Examine Future of Autonomous Vehicles
Information from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation(MRF)
Today(November 15th), the Congressional Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade examined the issue of self-driving vehicles. Members of the Committee used the hearing to explore the potential impact of automated vehicles on the nation's roadways. Chairman Michael Burgess (R-TX) who chairs the Committee stated in his opening remarks that holding the hearing would allow Congress to better understand the safety and economic opportunities these vehicles present. The hearing was also used as a forum to discuss the Department of Transportation's recently issued guidance on automated vehicles, which is currently under review.
Witnesses at the hearing spoke about the many positive attributes that self-driving vehicles hold including the future potential to eliminate human error from car crashes thus reducing the overall crash statistics in the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator Mark Rosekind was quick to point out that overall crash rates in 2016 were likely to increase by 10% and that typically, 94% of these are due to human error. There was hope by many on the Committee that this figure could be greatly reduced or eliminated with the eventual emergence of fully automated vehicles; still expected to be some years away.
However, detractors and safety advocates who also spoke as expert witnesses cautioned Congress and NHTSA not to rush forward with attempts to get fully automated vehicles on the road quickly. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) agreed, saying that while autonomous vehicles had the potential to be great for safety, they also had the potential to be a disaster. The outcome of which greatly depended on how these vehicles are regulated and guaranteed safe, she added.
Another area that was of focus during the hearing was the role of federal versus state authorities when it comes to regulating self-driving vehicles. Administrator Rosekind emphasized the language in the recently issued guidance which discouraged states from advancing on regulating these types of vehicles in a manner inconsistent with DoT and instead, encouraged states to focus on their role of licensing and liability. Members of Congress were quick to point out that a number of states including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and California were already making moves to attempt to regulate testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles despite NHTSA strongly discouraging this.
Regarding the issue of liability, there was wide-spread recognition that this is largely an area of the ‘unknown.' NHTSA's reaction to the concern over responsibility in crashes involving autonomous vehicles resulted in a recommendation that a Commission should be established to examine this issue specifically and work through some of the questions surrounding liability. The Commission would likely include a number of stakeholders including representatives from various State Departments of Motor Vehicles as well as state authorities.
NHTSA Solicits Feedback
Though not directly related, last week NHTSA held its first public workshop on the issue of automated vehicles, soliciting input from the public on the guidance document. At the beginning of the public meeting, NHTSA expressed its desire to continue with a series of meetings focused on some of the proactive approaches to regulating self-driving vehicles outlined in the guidance. For NHTSA, who was in ‘listen only' mode, the forum allowed them to hear directly from manufacturers of automated vehicles, insurance representatives, public safety groups and other advocates, such as the Motorcycle Riders Foundation who submitted written comments. The feedback centered around challenges with the emergence of these vehicles, possible improvements to the guidance, as well as served as an opportunity to seek clarification on the framework laid out by NHSTA.
Generally speaking, similar to the Congressional hearing, automakers and manufacturers of autonomous vehicles encouraged NHSTA to move forward, clearing any obstacles to getting these vehicles on the road and cautioned NHTSA to not do anything that would delay technology development. Contrarily, public safety advocates like "Consumer Watchdog" urged caution and their comments argued for NHTSA to slow down and ensure robust and rigorous enforceable regulations surrounding these vehicles including performance standards and a premarket approval process.
As the issue of autonomous vehicles moves forward, the lines in the sand are beginning to be drawn between automakers and safety groups. It's clear that government authorities like the Committee and NHSTA will be pulled in different directions as to how to grapple with this area of uncharted territory. The MRF has and will continue to remain vigilant offering suggestions for improvements ensuring that motorcycle safety is a priority as the government continues to grapple with how to deal with these types of vehicles.
Motorcycle Riders Foundation Responds to NHTSA's Proposed Policy on Autonomous Vehicles
Information from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation(MRF)
Today(November 21st), the Motorcycle Riders Foundation filed official comments with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding a proposed policy and guidance surrounding automated vehicles or self-driving cars.Released in September, the long-awaited guidance from the Agency was a first step in attempting to regulate this burgeoning technology. The guidance included a model policy for states to better understand how such vehicles are tested and used on the road as well as a recommended 15-point safety assessment for manufacturers to follow to ensure autonomous vehicles are safely designed,developed, tested and deployed.
Generally,the guidance was accepted as a positive first step, but very quickly opposing sides materialized with differing views on non-mandatory guidelines versus regulations, the scope of the federal government and effect on preemption for those states that have already begun to address the vehicles in state law, and general concerns over how to ensure safety within a technology that is so rapidly evolving.
Representing the voice of the millions of street motorcyclists in the U.S., the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) thoroughly reviewed the proposed policies as well as attended Agency workshops, congressional hearings and other forums to better understand how this technology and these policies would consider and ensure the safety of motorcyclists on the road. The organization's thoughts are captured in extensive comments filed with the Agency, which can be viewed by clicking on this link.
In short, the comments indicate that while the MRF recognizes the potential that these vehicles may offer in regards to improving road safety, other sections made clear that, "any guidelines, procedures, or regulations promulgated, are considerate and inclusive of all road users, specifically motorcyclists." The comments centered around four main points including implementing an enforceable requirement for automakers to have robust testing when it comes to motorcycle recognition and responsiveness,ensuring that safeguards surrounding cyber security have strong standards,thoughts and considerations regarding liability in crashes with self-driving vehicles, and general concerns about the scope and enforceability of the policy as well as the need to define a clear role between states and the federal government.
With over 10 million registered motorcycles on the nation's roads, the MRF insists that this group is an important stakeholder that is often overlooked when it comes to driverless vehicles. The MRF is working to ensure that bikers across the nation not be overlooked; they recently nominated a well-known motorcycle rights' activist to serve on a newly established Council at the Department of Transportation that will help advise the Secretary of Transportation on this issue. There has been no indication yet that the nomination has been accepted,but the MRF insists that it will remain vigilant in ensuring bikers have a seat at the table when it comes to automated vehicles.
EPA Finalizes 2017 Volume Requirements for Ethanol
Information from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation(MRF)
Last week, the EPA quietly published the 2017 volume requirements and associated percentage standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program passed into law by Congress several years ago. The law requires oil companies to blend increasing volumes of renewable fuels like ethanol with gasoline and diesel. Under the law, the EPA has the authority to designate volume requirements,which according to the 2007 law passed by Congress must reach 36 billion gallons by the year 2022. However, the law does provide the EPA with some authority to lower the annual volumes as circumstances warrant.
The 2017 requirements were published just days before the Thanksgiving holiday. Every year, the EPA adjusts the amount of renewable fuel it requires oil refiners to pump into the nation's gas supply. After initially signaling lower renewable fuel goals, the agency reversed course. According to the EPA Press Release, total renewable fuel volumes grew by 1.2 billion gallons from 2016 to 2017, a 6 percent increase. Ethanol enthusiasts were quick to praise the EPA. Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from the corn-producing state of Iowa, released a statement saying this:
"I am pleased the EPA has finally listened to the American people as well as the comments my colleagues and I have pushed forward, and set the final volume requirements for conventional biofuels for 2017 at appropriate and congressionally approved levels. The RFS is critical in reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and provides consumers with choices at the pump. Most importantly, it spurs investment and research in renewable fuels and supports our rural economy in Iowa."
Critics of the RFS program were not shy to voice their opinion on the EPA announcement. The American Petroleum Institute called the increase "irresponsible" and a bad deal for the American consumer and again called for repeal or significant reform. The American Petroleum Institute represents the oil and natural gas industry in Washington,DC.
The U.S. Congressional Energy and Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over the issue released a statement signed by Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee Vice Chairman Pete Olson (R-TX), and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL). The statement indicated that they still believed the "right balance" needed to found on the issue of ethanol, but they praised EPA for meeting its statutory deadlines set forth in the 2007 law and vowed to continue to monitor the issue going forward.
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF)and other consumers of small-engine motors continue to have concerns about the effects of higher blends of ethanol in gasoline and the potential to cause severe damage to their bikes. The MRF is working with stakeholders on both sides of the ethanol debate to negotiate common sense alternatives that would allow the RFS program to continue while keeping in mind the interests of the American street biker.
The EPA press release can be found by clicking this link
Region 5 Monthly Meeting Info
Locations and times for the next Region 5 county meetings
Next Region 5 meeting for Clinton County is 11AM, December 11th at American Legion Post 49 in Wilmington, Ohio.
Next Region 5 meeting for Butler-Clermont-Hamilton counties is 11AM, December 4th at The Train Stop in Foster, Ohio.