Connectivity challenge-- Attorney to address legal matters of connected car standards

By Mike Scott

Legal News

Lawyers are playing an important role in the ongoing discussion about car connectivity, a reference to electrical communications between various vehicles.

It is a topic that is expected to achieve some level of consensus by 2013 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has set a deadline for developing a standard. And the state of connected cars will be the main topic discussed at the "Second International Summit on the State of the Connected Vehicle" on Thursday, Sept. 30, at the PNC Center at I-75 and Big Beaver Road in Troy.

One of the featured speakers will be Paul Laurenza, an attorney from Dykema who has become known as an expert in the legal issues surrounding connected vehicles. As a lawyer who has worked in automotive and transportation safety for more than 30 years, Laurenza says that Michigan and California are among the primary states that have invested time and money in deploying an array of connected car systems that will become more noticeable to the public in the coming years.

Laurenza's presentation on "Regulation and Deployment" will highlight how existing legislative and regulatory models may provide guidance or insight with respect to development and deployment of connected vehicle technologies.

"What we are largely discussing now is that there are existing regulatory models that offer guidance for the deployment of connected car systems," Laurenza said. "These regulatory requirements will continue to evolve and by 2013 we expect to have an idea as to how regulated some of these (laws) are."

The federal vehicle connectivity program being run by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), previously called Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII), is now called IntelliDrive. A key IntelliDrive milestone is whether federal regulators will mandate deployment of vehicle-to-vehicle systems in new cars.

With this possibility in mind, the DOT through its agencies is pursuing various research, testing, and policy efforts aimed at supporting the NHTSA regulatory decision. Although this DOT focus is primarily on vehicle-to-vehicle safety applications using Dedicated Short Range Communications technology, DOT officials anticipate that the effort will help achieve secondary objectives such as enabling vehicle-to-infrastructure safety applications and non-safety applications such as traffic mobility and fuel efficiency savings, Laurenza said.

DOT is also exploring opportunities to accelerate connected vehicle safety benefits through possible use of aftermarket devices and retrofit systems, as opposed just to systems using embedded original equipment in new vehicles, according to Laurenza.

The focus of connected vehicles has expanded in recent years as the technology of car communications have expanded. Now there are a variety of cellular and wireless communications tools that are used in cars, and many examples of telematics, a general term that loosely relates to navigational and turn-by-turn devices, emergency communications, voice commands and more.

Laurenza also spoke at the first such summit last year where he focused his discussion on liability issues that will surround the deployment of these connected systems. That will continue to be an issue that will impact automotive OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), suppliers, and other industry stakeholders in the coming months and years. Other legal issues that are ongoing in the connected car sphere include intellectual property issues, such as who owns the data.

"You often have multiple (suppliers) who are involved in the transmitting of data and communications so you have to understand who owns all of that," Laurenza said.

Security is another critical issue that must be discussed, Laurenza said. The industry needs to develop insurance that hackers can't get into a connected vehicle communications system. Privacy issues include ensuring that personal information which is entered into telematic components or provided to service providers (such as credit card numbers for prepaid toll cards) aren't readily available to the public.

Perhaps most importantly is the discussion of how such a connected vehicle system will be put into place, Laurenza said. Often an industry group or governmental agency will initiate a rule that is then made into a federal safety standard. And yet to be determined is how this entire process can be funded in a way that doesn't cause added financial stress on OEMs and suppliers.

In addition to working with OEMs and suppliers, Laurenza and his staff at Dykema offices around the country and in southeastern Michigan also can work with governmental agencies, providing assistance to internal counsel. They also work with foreign governments, he added.

There is a difference between in-vehicle components that comprise crash avoidance systems and the connected car technological communications from vehicles to outside parties, Laurenza said.

"You can compare some of the challenges to what we have seen in the rail industry in terms of communicating outside of (that train)," he said. "If you ask many leaders at OEMs or suppliers they will tell you this is perhaps the most challenging technological area they have ever been involved in as part of the automotive industry."

The September 29-30 summit will be hosted by the Connected Vehicle Trade Association (CVTA) in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Transportation and SAE International. The Summit brings together international senior executives and policy officials from government and industry with responsibility for the development and deployment of connected vehicle systems, products and services.

Presenters from Europe, Asia and North America will provide perspectives from their respective regions. In addition, major corporate business leaders from automotive companies, the technology supplier community, content providers, insurers and communication companies will discuss the business and partnering opportunities in this rapidly evolving environment.

Laurenza, a Dykema member, represents automotive and other clients on federal regulatory and related litigation issues, including those before the Department of Transportation, Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

To learn more about the CTVA Second International Summit in Troy, visit www.connectedvehicle.org.

Published: Tue, Sep 28, 2010

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