The smiling gentlemen sitting in the passenger seat of this autonomous SRX is Representative Bill Shuster, Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (T&I).

This week (Nov 19 / 10AM) a T&I subcommittee, Highways and Transit, will hold a hearing titled, "How Autonomous Vehicles Will Shape the Future of Surface Transportation."

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This hearing follows on the heels of last week's House Energy & Commerce hearing, where we heard from John Kenney, Principal Research Manager for Toyota, on how automakers (and cable providers) would protect and share the 5 gigahertz spectrum (vehicles will use 5.9Ghz for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to- infrastructure communication).

The committee notice for this week's hearing on self-driving cars provides good background and explains the oversight or regulatory interest in the topic.

But before I get to any of that, along with who will attend, I wanted to highlight one quote from the notice that is, well, automotive demoralizing, yet absolutely welcomed at the same time.

"These companies envision offering consumers greater productivity while driving…"

Without getting into a long diatribe of the pros and cons of self-driving cars, mindless bumper-to-bumper traffic comes to mind as a big PRO, the reality is autonomous vehicles will be sold on the promise that you are now free to ENTER ACTIVITY OTHER THAN DRIVING while you "drive."

It's the automotive equivalent of DING You are free to move about the cabin.

Who are the witnesses for this week's hearing?

  • Hon. David Strickland, Administrator, NHTSA
  • Mr. Kirk Steudle, Director, Michigan DoT
  • Mr. Mike Robinson, VP of Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs, GM
  • Mr. Andrew Christensen , Senior Manager of Technology Planning, Nissan
  • Dr. Raj Rajkumar, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Dr. Joshua Schank, President and CEO, Eno Center for Transportation

The hearing will focus on many of the same concerns that have been brought up over the last few years; liability, user interface and market penetration. In the notice the committee mentioned a handful of companies playing in the self-driving game to include Nissan and its promise of self-driving cars by 2020, along with Google, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Toyota, and Audi.

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If you have time, mark your calendar and listen to the hearing Tuesday morning. You should be able to watch it live via the Committee's UStream channel.

This hearing should be car-related-enough to appeal to your automotive ADD and it will be the first public regulatory salvo for what is likely to be a long, but certain road to self-driving cars.