Biden, Congress must tackle emissions, safety, bandwidth, infrastructure for auto industry

A new administration will assume control over the vast federal regulatory apparatus this month. Fighting the pandemic with quickly developed vaccines will rightly be Job 1 as President-elect Joe Biden officially assumes office Jan. 20. But the nation’s auto industry will have its own to-do list for returning and newly elected officials in Washington.

Infrastructure: The nation’s roadways, bridges, electrical grid and communications networks require trillions of dollars in investment to restore them to good condition and protect them against 21st century enemies. It should be central to the economic recovery plan. All are vital to the proper functioning of automobiles in this country.

Emissions: The Trump administration’s misguided efforts to roll back emissions regulations caused a schism among automakers. The U.S. must have a single set of nationwide emissions standards going forward, and if they can be in line with other large markets globally, all the better.

Bandwidth: The Federal Communications Commission has moved to auction off communications spectrum that had been reserved for automotive safety messaging. The bandwidth will be needed by automated vehicles to communicate with each other and with stationary infrastructure, such as traffic lights — and it should be protected for transportation use.

Safety: NHTSA must implement rules that protect citizens from being unwitting guinea pigs for unproven technologies, while encouraging development of lifesaving capabilities. Likewise, the Federal Trade Commission should protect consumers from misrepresentation of vehicle features that haven’t been proved safe by NHTSA.

Trade: If there is one thing this industry will not miss about the Trump administration, it is its chaotic trade policies. The Biden administration should work with global partners to resume construction of a global trading framework — one that protects the interests of workers, consumers and employers, advances human rights and places all participants on a level playing field.

The 117th Congress won’t be finalized by the time this paper goes to print. But legislators have to get to work with the next administration on these important issues, pronto.

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