Government giving their two cents on cars

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, one of the main architects of the auto safety bill.

On Tuesday, U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill that would essentially add, standardize and regulate certain features that new vehicles will have to be built with. This is not the first time that the government has done this and to be fair, it is not always a bad thing because some of those features (i.e. seat belts) are important to have. However, some of the features that this bill includes will likely make the vehicles more expensive while at the same time are likely more than what most drivers need.

The main features and specs included in this bill, which is yet to actually pass and become law include: a certain limit on how quickly a car must come to a full stop, setting a standard for how high off the ground the pedals need to be, standards for regulating the safety of electronics in the cars, standards on remote starting systems and equip vehicles with a data recorder similar to the ones found on planes called a ”black box”.

The senators say that these rules are as a result of what happened with Toyota vehicles recently and that if these rules were in place then perhaps it would not have happened. If some of these features and standards seem a bit open ended, it’s because they are. There is no word on what the various limitations will be and how restrictive the government will make innovation in the auto sector. Also, when the government becomes an expert in a given field, such as cars in this case, it always brings a good chance that they will over do it in some way. Making it too expensive, nonsensical and more of a burden than a helping hand seems likely here.

Without knowing the details on the limits and criteria for the various standards, the most troubling feature from this list at the outset is the “black box” style data recorder. It is possible that, like on a plane, every move will be recorded and become known to the analyzer. There seems to be a clear invasion of privacy there and it will only solve a problem that is very rarely present. Most of the time when an accident takes place, the police are able to accurately re-trace what happened and who is at fault. The percentage of times in which the car (like the poorly designed Toyotas) had some glitch and was actually at fault is so slim that it is essentially a non-issue.

If the standards and features will truly make people safer and better off, then fine. However, the government needs to be very careful about how restrictive they make these rules so as to not prevent certain cars from entering the North American market (I say North America because Canadians will likely end up with the same or similar models as the U.S. ones). They also need to be mindful that unnecessary requirements can make the vehicles more expensive and that is a very bad outcome that must be avoided.

If this or a similar bill passes the congress and becomes law or if more details are released about the specifics of the rules, I will follow up as this can be an important issue for all drivers and vehicle owners.