It’s always cool to dream about the future. Whether you were a fan of “Star Trek,” “The Jetsons,” or “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it’s exciting to see what life will be like sometime in the future.
Our industry is not immune to the opportunities — and potential perils — of what life will look like in the future. As this issue of Auto Rental News highlights, technological advancement is happening so quickly that it can be challenging to keep up with it all. But the car rental industry must keep up to remain relevant and to continue serving our customers’ needs.
If you think it’s difficult for those in the private sector to track and understand all these advances, can you imagine what it’s like for the public sector — those who are charged with developing and crafting public policy — to account for these changes?
That’s where ACRA comes in. ACRA is the collective voice that speaks for the car rental industry. It can effectively communicate to legislators and other governmental policymakers how the industry is evolving and adapting to these technological advances.
Therefore, it is ACRA’s mission to position our industry as a key stakeholder in both the policy discussion and the policy shaping of the future of vehicle mobility and vehicle deployment. After all, the rental car industry owns more than two million vehicles and certainly knows how to manage and deploy fleets. So, we should have a seat at that table. That is what ACRA is working to do.
What will vehicle technology be capable of in the future? What will vehicle ownership look like? There are new and emerging platforms where rental car transactions can take place — the same transactions that are taking place today, just received by different means. What will the public policy around these potentially different models look like? ACRA will be there to offer its perspective.
Then there’s the brave new world of autonomous vehicles. How will these vehicles impact our industry? And what’s the public policy surrounding this technological break-through? Several policy questions are being asked:
• What is the definition of a driver?
• Who owns the data generated by the autonomous vehicle?
• Who can repair these vehicles?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) set out safety guidelines for autonomous vehicles last September. Since these were published toward the end of one administration, and we just ushered in a new president, no one knows what policy recommendations will stay and which may go. But, suffice to say, we’ve not heard the last from NHTSA and Congress on this issue. We anticipate some form of federal legislation to surface at some point.
Likewise, it is likely states will begin to develop their own — potentially conflicting or inconsistent — regulatory proposals (as some already have) in order to make the deployment of autonomous vehicles possible in their jurisdictions.
Will ACRA members seek uniformity in these regulatory constructs through federal legislation rather than a patchwork of state regulations? As of today, the answer to that question is unknown. But it will be critical that ACRA is in a position to engage in these discussions and debates — and ultimately help shape the public policy.
As the new administration and Congress begin working on initiatives for autonomous vehicles — and in all areas that affect the car rental industry — ACRA will be there to engage on your behalf.
Additionally, most state legislators have gone back to their state capitals to begin their annual work in lawmaking. There, too, ACRA will be watching and engaging to ensure that your voice is heard in the process.
Needless to say, there is more to come in this area as the next years unfold. Buckle up … it’s going to be quite a ride.