On October 7, 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a notice seeking comments regarding the need for safety standards with respect to electronic systems in passenger motor vehicles.  This notice was published pursuant to section 31402 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP–21 or the Act), in which Congress directed NHTSA to conduct an examination of this issue.  In conducting this examination, the Act directed the agency to consider the following topics: (1) electronic components; (2) the interaction of electronic components; (3) the security needs for those electronic components to prevent unauthorized access; and (4) the effect of surrounding environments on the electronic systems.  The Act also directed the agency to seek public comment in conducting this examination.  Upon completing the examination, NHTSA is directed to submit a report to Congress on the highest priority areas for safety with regard to the electronic systems.

The notice identifies the research NHTSA is currently conducting and plans to conduct and seeks public comment on these specific areas of research.  The notice also contains a long list of questions on which it seeks public comment regarding various aspects of these areas of research, such as:

  • What methods are effective in identifying potential anomalous behavior associated with electronic components, systems, and communications reliably and quickly?
  • What strategies do current vehicles have for activating a ‘‘fail-safe’’ mode when critical problems are detected?
  • What series of performance-based tests should the agency consider to ensure safe functionality of automotive electronic control systems under all real-world conditions?
  • What types of techniques (either in real world occurrences or as a part of research), have persons used to gain unauthorized access to vehicle systems and what types of systems were such persons able to gain access to?
  • What types of metrics are available to test a vehicle’s ability to withstand a cyberattack?
  • Are there any common design characteristics that help ensure a minimum level of security from unauthorized access to a vehicle’s electronic control systems?
  • What could the agency do to further assess the electromagnetic interference susceptibility impacts of growing use of electronics on automotive system safety and assess the adequacy of existing voluntary standards?

Providing comments to NHTSA on these issues can help educate the agency and influence what the agency reports to Congress regarding how regulation in this area should be approached.  Comments are due by December 8, 2014.