Need-to-Know: Monday August 10, 2015

Published: August 10, 2015

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Callum Micucci



In this past week’s auto insurance news, Takata Corp. upped its lobbying spending in the second quarter of 2015 and Canadian automotive supplier Magna International speaks about the state of the autonomous car.

According to a recent report from Bloomberg, Takata increased its spend on U.S. federal lobbying by 22 per cent in the second quarter following it’s involvement in largest recall in automotive history.

Bloomberg cites records that say the airbag maker paid Squire Patton Boggs, the international law firm, $390,000 USD for lobbying services in the second quarter and $300,000 USD in the first quarter. The firm represents Takata in front of Congress, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Department of Transportation.

American lawmakers have held four separate hearings to question Takata on the issue.

The recall centres around faulty airbag propellant canisters that can rupture and explode after moisture seeps into them, sending shrapnel into the vehicle’s occupant compartment.  The issue has been linked to at least eight deaths so far.

As a result, 11 auto manufacturers have recalled just under 34 million vehicles. Take a look at our article on the recall for information about which automakers are affected and how to check your specific vehicle.

In other news, Magna International’s chief technology officer Swamy Kotagiri said Thursday that it’s not technological obstacles¾but infrastructure, ethics and liability hurdles¾that will hold back the development of the autonomous vehicle, according to Wards Auto.

“We can get there with the technology,” he said at Thursday’s Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminar. “The biggest hurdles relate to how much infrastructure [is necessary] and issues related to ethics and liability.”

Kotagiri said the biggest struggle will be determining who’s at fault in an accident when the control of the vehicle is no longer in the hands of the driver. Is it the manufacturer or the driver?

He also said it’s not a question of if autonomous cars will happen, but when.

Magna manufacturers a driver assistance vision system called EYERIS that enables forward collision warnings, traffic sign recognition and lane-departure warnings. The newest iteration has lane-keeping assistance, glare-free high beams and collision mitigation.

In June, Yale Law School student Jack Boeglin published a paper that discussed what levels of discretion (freedom) and communication (privacy) autonomous cars will offer. For example, will autonomous car drivers have the freedom to decide when to engage the autonomous mode? Also, how much privacy will the driver have? Will the car “speak” to other cars or a central computer?

Boeglin’s argument was along the same lines as Kotagiri in saying that legal and ethical issues are the real hurdle now, as opposed to technological issues. He says regulators will have to grapple with this in the near future.